The Conjuring movie may have broken horror genre box office record - even considering inflation
July 22 update: James Wan’s Warner Bros.-distributed horror movie The Conjuring, starring Patrick Wilson (Little Children, Watchmen) and 2009 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), opened with more than twice its reported $20 million production budget at 2,903 North American venues this past weekend, July 19-21.
According to weekend box office actuals found at Boxofficemojo.com, The Conjuring took in an outstanding $41.85 million – including an estimated $3.31 million from Thursday evening and midnight screenings. The horror movie also earned an additional $3.4 million internationally.
Which movie is the box office record holder in the original R-rated horror movie category? The Conjuring vs. The Sixth Sense + What Lies Beneath
The initial gross of James Wan’s supernatural tale means The Conjuring has had the most successful domestic opening ever for an original R-rated horror movie – possibly even after inflation is taken into account. For comparison’s sake: M. Night Shyamalan / Bruce Willis / Haley Joel Osment’s eventual Best Picture Academy Award nominee The Sixth Sense scored $26.68 million in August 1999, or approximately $42 million in 2013 dollars. In late July 2000, Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath, written by The Avengers’ Clark Gregg, and toplining Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, pulled in $29.7 million – or, once again, approximately $42 million today.
The only way to know for a fact which movie is first would be for the Hollywood studios to release the actual number of tickets sold for each of them. Admittedly, neither The Sixth Sense nor What Lies Beneath had the advantage of Thursday evening shows; while The Sixth Sense opened at about 800 fewer theaters than The Conjuring.
Note: although Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge raked in $39.12 million in October 2004, or about $50 million today, this Sam Raimi-produced supernatural horror movie featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr doesn’t count as an “original R-rated horror movie.” After all, The Grudge was a remake of Shimizu’s own Japanese-language original.
And here’s another horror original, along the lines of The Conjuring‘s “Based on a True Story” marketing package: Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Campbell Scott, Laura Linney, and Tom Wilkinson, earned $30.05 million in September 2005, or about $37 million today.
The Conjuring movie: Good reviews + word of mouth
Word of mouth and positive reviews likely helped The Conjuring: the horror movie about paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) received an A- CinemaScore and has an 84 percent approval rating and 7.3/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Perhaps as a result of the good will of both critics and mouths, The Conjuring was down 17 percent on Saturday and 21 percent on Sunday – unusually low drop-off rates for a movie in the horror genre.
Here are more comparisons: Ignoring inflation, the previous opening-weekend record holder among original R-rated horror movies was James DeMonaco’s Michael Bay-coproduced The Purge, starring Ethan Hawke, which grossed $34.05 million when it debuted last month. The poorly received The Purge ultimately cumed at $64.06 million. The previous record holder was William Brent Bell’s The Devil Inside, with $33.73 million in January 2012, and a cume of $53.26 million.
In case The Conjuring continues misbehaving at the box office – i.e., behaving unlike a typical horror movie – expect its cume to far surpass those of the genre’s previous record holders and to become one of the most financially successful movies in the careers of both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
James Wan’s horror movies
The Malaysian-born James Wan’s previous horror movie, the April 2011 release Insidious, also featuring Patrick Wilson (alongside Bridesmaids’ Rose Byrne and veteran Barbara Hershey), opened with $13.27 million at 2,408 locations, eventually cuming at $54 million in the U.S. and Canada (in addition to approximately $43 million internationally).
Of note: Wan’s credits as a producer includes the Saw movie sequels, while his upcoming directing effort is Insidious: Chapter 2, bringing back Wilson, Byrne, and Hershey, and which is scheduled to open on Sept. 13 in North America. Next in line for Wan is Fast & Furious 7.
Low-budget The Conjuring vs. big-budget releases
Here are few more comparisons – to this weekend’s big-budget movies: DreamWorks Animation’s $135 million-budgeted Turbo earned $21.31 million, for a five-day cume of $31.01 million, about $5 million below early estimates; the Lionsgate / Summit-distributed Bruce Willis-Helen Mirren-Anthony Hopkins action sequel Red 2, with a reported price tag of $84 million, earned a disappointing $18.04 million; and the Universal-distributed Ryan Reynolds-Jeff Bridges supernatural actioner R.I.P.D., which may have cost upwards of $150 million (some reports claim $130 million), collected a disastrous $12.46 million.
Now, I haven’t been able to find marketing costs for The Conjuring. A modest production budget may at times belie a hefty marketing budget, i.e., Paramount’s Paranormal Activity movies.
And finally, although it’s true that The Conjuring overperformed, this last weekend was down 19 percent compared to a year ago, when Christopher Nolan-Christian Bale’s third and final installment in their Batman trilogy, also featuring Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Tom Hardy, grossed $160.88 million.
An impressive figure, albeit millions less than expected, surely at least in part because of the July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting – one of the worst in the history of the gun-crazy United States.
The Conjuring cast
Besides Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the horror movie The Conjuring features Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol, The Haunting), Mackenzie Foy (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s daughter Renesmee in Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and Breaking Dawn - Part 2), Ron Livingston, Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Kyla Deaver, Hayley McFarland, and Shannon Kook. Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (House of Wax, The Reaping) were credited for The Conjuring screenplay.
Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigator Ed Warren in the horror movie The Conjuring photo: Warner Bros.
The Conjuring: ‘True story’ horror movie box office beats (much) costlier competition
James Wan’s $20 million-budgeted horror movie The Conjuring, starring Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson, may end up grossing about twice its production cost at the North American box office this weekend, July 19-21.
According to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo, The Conjuring scored a highly impressive $17.03 million from 2,903 venues on Friday – including $3.31 million from Thursday evening and midnight screenings. That means Wan’s generally well-received effort (see below) may end up boasting the biggest domestic opening ever for an original R-rated horror movie – well, if you pretend inflation doesn’t exist.
Now, inflation plays no role among this weekend’s films: The Conjuring has been leaving far behind three other (way costlier) new releases: DreamWorks Animation’s $135 million-budgeted Turbo; the Ryan Reynolds / Jeff Bridges supernatural actioner R.I.P.D., which may have cost upwards of $150 million (some reports say $130 million); and the Bruce Willis / Mary-Louise Parker / Helen Mirren action sequel Red 2, with a reported price tag of $84 million.
Of those, only Turbo is expected to gross over $20 million this weekend, whereas The Conjuring, which has an 84 percent approval rating and 7.3/10 average among ‘ top critics, should bring in $38-40 million by Sunday evening. (Update: According to studio esimates, The Conjuring has taken in $41.53 million. Weekend box office actuals will be released on Monday.)
Ignoring pesky details such as inflation, the current opening-weekend record holder among original R-rated horror movies is James DeMonaco’s Michael Bay-coproduced The Purge, starring Ethan Hawke. This poorly received entry in the horror genre collected $34.05 million when it came out last month, after grossing $16.8 million on Friday. The previous record holder was William Brent Bell’s The Devil Inside, with $33.73 million in January 2012.
Considering The Conjuring‘s generally positive reviews and the possibility of good word of mouth – the film has an A- CinemaScore – expect the Vera Farmiga / Patrick Wilson horror movie to have a less steep Friday-Saturday drop than the usual run-of-the-mill effort in that genre. Hence, the chance that The Conjuring may overperform on the weekend proper and thus reach (at least close to) the $40 million mark.
Inflation-adjusted opening-weekend box office grosses of original, R-rated horror movie hits
Once inflation is taken into account, other original R-rated horror movies with excellent debuts include M. Night Shyamalan / Bruce Willis’ eventual Best Picture Oscar nominee The Sixth Sense, which brought in $26.68 million in August 1999, or about $42 million today. In late July 2000, Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath, written by The Avengers’ Clark Gregg, and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, raked in $29.7 million – or, once again, about $42 million in 2013 dollars.
Also: Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, and Campbell Scott, collected $30.05 million in September 2005, or about $37 million today. Just like The Conjuring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is “Based on a True Story.”
Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge pulled in $39.12 million in October 2004, or about $50 million today – a figure that The Conjuring has no chance of surpassing. But The Grudge doesn’t quite count, as the Sam Raimi-produced supernatural horror film featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr was a remake of Shimizu’s own Japanese-language original.
Now, although The Conjuring is overperforming, there’s no way this late July weekend will get even close to the domestic box office gross of last year’s equivalent weekend. That was when Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale’s third and final installment in their Batman trilogy grossed $160.88 million despite the Aurora, Colorado, massacre – one of the worst in the history of the gun-mad United States.
The Conjuring box office: Biggest opening weekend ever for an original R-rated horror movie?
The Conjuring, James Wan’s low-budget horror movie starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, collected an impressive $3.31 million from Thursday midnight screenings (July 18-19) according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. That site’s Ray Subers is expecting The Conjuring, which has a somewhat surprising 84 percent approval rating and 7.3/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics, to gross close to $38 million from 2,903 locations by Sunday evening – thus leaving far behind this weekend’s crowded competition, which includes DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, the Ryan Reynolds / Jeff Bridges actioner R.I.P.D., and the Bruce Willis / Mary-Louise Parker action sequel Red 2.
If Subers is right, the $20 million-budgeted The Conjuring will boast the biggest domestic opening ever for an original R-rated horror movie – that is, if you choose to pretend that inflation doesn’t exist. The current record holder is James DeMonaco’s Michael Bay-coproduced The Purge, which earned $34.05 million when it came out last month, while the previous one was William Brent Bell’s The Devil Inside, with $33.73 million in January 2012.
Inflation-adjusted horror movie box office: The Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath
Now, once inflation is factored in, there are other original R-rated horror movies highly impressive openings – that The Conjuring is unlikely to surpass. M. Night Shyamalan / Bruce Willis’ eventual Best Picture Academy Award nominee The Sixth Sense earned $26.68 million in August 1999, while Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath, written by The Avengers’ Clark Gregg, and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, grossed $29.7 million in late July 2000. Today, each of those movies would have earned about $42 million.
Additionally, there’s Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Laura Linney, Campbell Scott, and Tom Wilkinson, which brought in $30.05 million in September 2005, or approximately $37 million in 2013. Like The Conjuring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a “Based on a True Story” horror movie.
Now, although Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge scored $39.12 million in October 2004, or about $50 million today, the Sam Raimi-produced supernatural horror movie starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr doesn’t quite count as it was a remake of Shimizu’s own Japanese horror original.
And finally, let’s not forget that The Dark Knight Rises opened a year ago. Although the horror that weekend took place not on screen, but inside one packed movie theater in Colorado, the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale’s Batman trilogy ultimately grossed $160.88 million on its first three days out in North America. Despite its multifarious movie debuts, expect this late July weekend to be down dramatically when compared to last year’s.
Inflation-adjusted movie-ticket cost calculations
It’s always good to remember that inflation-adjusted figures are approximations. Even if the National Association of Theater Owners’ averages are fully accurate – American moviegoers in urban centers surely find them laughable – they are overall averages, encompassing tickets for movies in regular format, 3D, and IMAX 3D.
Note: Box Office Mojo hasn’t adjusted its 2013 inflation-meter yet; it still reflects the year’s first quarter average of $7.94, whereas the second quarter average is $8.38 – and the average for the first half of 2013 is $8.16. Needless to say, we’re now in the year’s third quarter, which will have its own (different) average, to be made available sometime in the fall.
DreamWorks Animation / 20th Century Fox’s Turbo debuted on Wednesday at 3,551 North American locations, grossing a barely passable $5.55 million according to figures found at Boxofficemojo.com. True, Turbo isn’t a sequel like Despicable Me 2 or Monsters University, but the 3D animated feature cost a reported $135 million. Could Turbo be thus considered a domestic box office flop-in-the-making? Well, that’s much too early to tell, as animated films at times develop sturdy legs – and not only in the U.S. and Canada, but elsewhere as well. (Image: Turbo snail racer.)
(Friday, July 19, update: Following a solid Thursday midnight debut, it looks like the domestic weekend box office will belong to the low-budget horror movie The Conjuring. The paragraph below has been slightly amended to reflect that.)
Box-office pundits had been expecting Turbo to top the domestic box office chart this weekend, with approximately $28-30 million, and a five-day $35-37 million cume. All in all, a quite modest opening for a DreamWorks Animation release. Stiff competition from the Steve Carell / Kristen Wiig-voiced Despicable Me 2 and, to a lesser extent, the Billy Crystal / John Goodman / Helen Mirren-voiced Monsters University, surely aren’t helping matters many. On the plus side, Turbo has reportedly earned an ‘A’ CinemaScore; we’ll see how – or if – that’ll influence the animated movie’s opening-weekend grosses.
For comparison’s sake: The Croods opened with $43.63 million earlier this year, while How to Train Your Dragon debuted with $43.73 million in 2010. True, Chicken Run opened with $17.5 million back in 2000, or about $26 million today – but at 2,491 locations, about 1,000 fewer venues than Turbo. Late last year, DreamWorks Animation’s $145 million-budgeted Rise of the Guardians, released by Paramount, was a major domestic misfire, ultimately cuming at only $103.41 million in North America (in addition to a much more respectable $200.3 million internationally).
Here’s another comparison: Disney’s Cars, without the advantage of 3D surcharges, opened with $60.11 million in 2006 – or about $73 million today.
Turbo is also opening this week in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Argentina, and in several Southeast Asian territories.
Ryan Reynolds toplines Turbo voice cast
The Turbo voice cast includes Ryan Reynolds (who also has another movie opening this weekend, R.I.P.D., and who was one of The Croods’ voice actors), Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Bill Hader, Luis Guzmán, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Ben Schwartz, Ken Jeong, Mike Bell, Michelle Rodriguez, veteran Paul Dooley (A Perfect Couple, Breaking Away), and former racing driver and Cars voice actor Mario Andretti.
Turbo marks the directing feature-film debut of voice actor and storyboard artist David Soren (Neighbors from Hell, Shark Tale), from a screenplay by Soren, Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer), and Robert D. Siegel (Big Fan, The Wrestler).
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in the horror movie The Conjuring photo: Warner Bros.