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'Annabelle' conjures sales of US$35m to lead box office

[NEW YORK] "Annabelle: Creation," the latest installment in a Warner Bros horror series, opened as the top movie in North America with sales of US$35 million over a slow weekend, easily beating two other new films in wide release.

A prequel from "The Conjuring" series, "Annabelle: Creation" took in an estimated US$35 million at US and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc said in an email Sunday.

The animated kids movie, "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," brought in US$8.9 million for Open Road Films, while "The Glass Castle" from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, registered US$4.88 million.

The horror feature is the third success this summer for the Burbank, California-based film division of Time Warner Inc, which also released "Dunkirk" No 2 this weekend, and "Wonder Woman". The summer has been light on horror films, and the studio's sales were up 2.3 per cent year to date heading into the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, a good performance in a down year for theaters.

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Directed by David Sandberg, "Annabelle: Creation" features Lulu Wilson as Linda, one of several orphan girls who are welcomed into the home of a dollmaker and his wife and then become the target of the possessed doll Annabelle.

The new film had a built-in fan base. The 2014 "Annabelle" earned more than US$250 million globally on a US$6.5 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo. The movies offer a haunting look into story of Annabelle, whose debut was in 2013's "The Conjuring".

Slow Summer

Hollywood studios have been battling sequel fatigue this summer, with many of their biggest franchise films underperforming predecessors. Analysts at BoxOfficePro.com predicted US$30 million for "Annabelle: Creation," compared with the US$37.1 million registered by the 2014 release. The R-rated film cost about US$15 million to make and garnered a 68 per cent positive rating at RottenTomatoes.com.

"The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" was forecast to debut with US$10 million, according to BoxOfficePro.com. Directed by Cal Brunker, the children's film features the voice of Will Arnett as an animated squirrel who joins with friends to stop the mayor from destroying their home to create an amusement park.

The 2014 predecessor, "The Nut Job," was a surprise success, generating more than US$64 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. Rotten Tomatoes gave the sequel a low rating of 10 per cent positive.

"The Glass Castle", based on Jeannette Walls's coming-of-age memoir, opened in ninth place, playing in fewer than 1,500 locations. With a cast featuring Oscar winner Brie Larson, as well as Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, the picture scored a 46 per cent positive rating on RottenTomatoes. Analysts at BoxOfficePro.com predicted an opening weekend of US$4.25 million.

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