“The Conjuring,” a demonic possession tale from Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s New Line Cinema, opened as the top film in the U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend, collecting $41.9 million in ticket sales.
“The Conjuring” outperformed three other new releases, including DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (DWA)’s “Turbo,” the action film “R.I.P.D.” from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF)’s “Red 2,” researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.
With “The Conjuring,” New Line is capitalizing on fans’ enduring appetite for low-cost horror stories that focus on suspense instead of gore and special effects. Movies in the genre tend to generate high sales relative to production costs. “Mama,” released by Universal in January, was made for $15 million and had $146.4 million worldwide sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Last year’s “Sinister” cost $3 million and generated $77.7 million globally.
“It’s probably the most cost-effective genre,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com’s box-office unit. “All you need is some good lighting and spooky sound effects. ‘‘Studios love them because they’re relatively cheap to make and they get the audience in the theater.’’
‘‘The Conjuring’’ was made for about $20 million, the estimate of Box Office Mojo, which doesn’t include marketing expenses. Box-office receipts are split with theater owners.
The film is based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose work included an examination of a supposedly haunted house that inspired the movie ‘‘The Amityville Horror.’’ In ‘‘The Conjuring,’’ based on one of their earlier investigations, the couple looks into reports of a malevolent presence in a secluded Rhode Island farmhouse.
Patrick Wilson plays Ed Warren and Vera Farmiga is featured as Lorraine. Lorraine Warren was a consultant for the movie, according to production materials from New Line, part of the Warner Bros. unit. The picture was forecast to take in about $34 million this past weekend, the estimate of researcher Boxoffice.com.
Hollywood plans to keep mining the genre. New Line is developing a sequel based on the Warrens’ investigations, according to Candice McDonough, a spokeswoman for the studio.
‘‘Insidious Chapter 2” is scheduled for release in September by FilmDistrict. The first film, released in 2011, cost $1.5 million and took in $97 million worldwide. A new “Paranormal Activity” film is scheduled for release by Paramount Pictures next year.
“There’s been enough variety” in the plots, said Phil Contrino, chief analyst for Boxoffice.com. “I don’t think people are quite sick of it yet. It will happen eventually, but not for the foreseeable future.”
“The Conjuring” had an 85 percent positive rating from Rottentomatoes.com, based on a survey of 108 reviews.
“It scared the living crap out of me,” wrote Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers. “So kudos to ‘The Conjuring’ for putting fresh fire into the overworked haunted-house genre.”
“Turbo,” about a speedy snail that dreams of entering the Indianapolis 500, features the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Samuel L. Jackson. The film, which opened on July 17, took in $21.3 million for the weekend, beating the $19 million estimate of Boxoffice.com, and finishing third.
The movie, made for about $135 million, will take in about $90 million during its domestic run, Ben Mogil, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in St. Louis, said in a note today. He previously had forecast $135 million. Piper Jaffray analyst James Marsh today predicted a writedown of $30 million to $50 million based on the opening.
The forecast is premature because the movie hasn’t opened in key overseas markets, including Europe, Korea and China, Allison Rawlings, DreamWorks Animation spokeswoman, said in an interview. She also cited positive audience response that may induce more people to see the film in the U.S.
“Red 2,” an $84 million sequel to a 2010 hit, finished fifth with sales of $18 million. It resumes the story of a group of retired CIA operatives who are forced out of retirement after being targeted for assassination.
“R.I.P.D.” was seventh with $12.7 million in receipts. The film stars Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as police officers who, after their deaths, are recruited into a special force assigned to protect humans from evil spirits. Kevin Bacon co-stars.
“Despicable Me 2,” the animated hit from Universal, fell to second with sales of $24.9 million after spending two weeks in first place. The film, released on July 3, has taken in $276 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 19 percent to $181.1 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Attendance year to date is down 3.1 percent while revenue in the same period has dropped less than 1 percent.
The following table has U.S. movie box office figures provided by studios to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales from July 19 to yesterday.
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