2nd SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU AND UPDATE: Chart will be updated later in the morning “This Sunday is a Holy Day at Warner Bros., we are truly blessed,” beamed the studio’s domestic distribution boss Jeff Goldstein this morning.

First a $50M projected opening, now New Line’s The Nun is soaring toward an estimated $54M per industry estimates after a $22.3M reported Friday and $19.7M Saturday, -11% (remember Friday includes that record Thursday night $5.4M preview cash for The Conjuring franchise). WB is seeing $53.5M for the weekend, but it won’t come as surprise given the momentum for the pic if that’s a round number by tomorrow morning.

Overseas The Nun hit $77.5M, sending her worldwide start to a fantastic $131.5M, way ahead of the global debut of World War Z ($112.2M) and below It‘s awesome $189.7M WW opening weekend a year ago. In addition to the best Thursday night and opening weekend in The Conjuring universe, The Nun‘s Friday stateside also repped the best opening day in the franchise.

After a monster shark in The Meg, then Crazy Rich Asians, it’s just another great conceit clicking at the B.O. for Warner Bros.: Let’s face it scary nuns are just great for business. We knew earlier this week that The Nun was headed to a franchise opening record, feasibly slashing The Conjuring 2‘s $41.8M three-day, and now the question is where does The Nun rank on the all-time openers list for horror pics at the domestic box office. Hands down, It owns the all-time record at $123.4M, and Nun beats Paramount/Blumhouse’s Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.5M). Arguably New Line’s evil sister ranks as 4th best after It, World War Z ($66.4M), and Hannibal ($58M). ComScore includes The Mummy Returns’ $68.1M opening as second-best in their database, but that’s arguably an adventure movie. As we’ve overwritten, The Nun reps the fifth No. 1 consecutive box office weekend for Warner Bros.

Tonight Universal/Blumhouse premiered their David Gordon Green reboot of Halloween to great cheers and laughs during TIFF’s Midnight Madness section. Look for the Michael Myers movie to continue fall’s horror sensation at the turnstiles.

What has been really impressive over the last three-days is how The Nun earned its heavenly business despite its sins: She’s the second Conjuring pic after Annabelle to earn the worst reviews in the series at 29% Rotten, but CinemaScore audiences at 51% males/49% females (Annabelle was 51% females/49% men) gave the nasty lady a C, the lowest grade ever in the horror universe below the Bs earned by the doll movies. While a ‘C’ is an average grade for a horror movie in CinemaScore speak; it’s rare and uncommon when you’re a horror film to land an A- like the first two Conjurings. CinemaScore audiences are historically hard on horror; last September’s sensation It earned a B+ despite its mind-boggling box office success ($123.4M opening, $327.4M domestic). The Nun’s launch here in regards to ticket sales and grades isn’t that far from Paranormal Activity 3 which landed a C+ and legged its way past the century mark stateside.

The Hispanic audience over-indexes on horror, but on The Nun, the share was even higher with a 35% turnout versus Conjuring‘s 17%, the sequel’s 28%, Annabelle’s 22% and its sequel’s 26%.

From a business stand point, Warner Bros. is to be commended for propelling The Nun to the franchise’s highest B.O. opening ever off bad Rotten Tomatoes scores and audience exits in this do-or-die social media universe. It’s truly a throwback to the good old days (we’re talking the early aughts, the ’90s and further back) when popcorn fare could thrive at the B.O. without being shackled by poor reviews. Warners sold The Nun like a major event title,  dropping teaser footage to fanboys at New Line’s inaugural Scare Diego last year at San Diego Comic-Con, followed by more footage last July with Conjuring maestro James Wan on hand at the confab. Of Friday night’s audience, 56% were under 25 for The Nun, nearly on par with Annabelle which hooked 54% under 25.

Social media analyst RelishMix reports that the word of mouth heading into the weekend for The Nun was upbeat: “To the campaign’s credit, it has reached fans of the Conjuring and Annabelle movies…Some say Valak, the demon nun, is the scariest part of the franchise, so they’re interested to see a whole film dedicated to the character.”

RelishMix also says that The Nun has a strong social media universe near 147M across Facebook, YouTube views, Twitter and Instagram, which is “well above the usual horror movie, which scores a 103.2M SMU by opening week.” Video trailers for The Nun are being passed around at an enormous rate of 29 to 1, while the average horror movie has a 13:1 pass-around ratio. The Nun is scoring 82.4K views daily for its top clips, while the benchmark for the genre is 41.9K.  “In fact, the only area where the film has fallen short is in daily Facebook likes. However, keep in mind that The Conjuring has 4.6M Fans and Annabelle has 4.3M which makes it difficult to say one way or another how many Conjuring universe fans are already fans,” says RelishMix.  Over on Twitter, daily hashtags for #TheNun, #TheNunMovie and @TheNunMovie have exploded by 5X between Wednesday and Thursday from 8.4k to 43.6k unique hashtags in a day, which is a significant bump. Nun star Taissa Farmiga, former American Horror Story alum and sister to Vera Farmiga who stars as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring, is the social media queen here for the pic with 2.1M followers. Through the first four films, The Conjuring universe counts $1.2 billion at the global box office.

This weekend also reps the fourth frame in a row that Warners has owned the top two B.O. spots on the chart with Crazy Rich Asians counting a running cume of $136.2M, still besting The Help by 14% through 26 days. The pic’s fourth Saturday made $5.8M, +52% from Friday for an estimated $13.6M weekend, -38%. Final domestic B.O. will be around $193M+. Like The Help, Crazy Rich Asians has the commercial success, the critics, and the masses’ love. Let the Oscar campaign begin.

Meanwhile The Nun is rapping the knuckles of STX/Lakeshore’s Peppermintwhich although it earned a B+ from CinemaScore audiences (beating Mark Wahlberg’s Mile 22’s B- grade four weekends ago, another STX R-rated action pic), the Jennifer Garner pic is earning $13.3M over three days in third place after a $4.6M Friday and $5.2M Saturday, nickels under Mile 22‘s $13.7M start. The pic sparked mixed reactions on social per RelishMix with Garner fans happy to see her back in Alias form while other moviegoers are fed up with the whole vigilante, person-with-a-gun-Liam-Neeson-rip-off pics. Light social media universe here of 37.5M, with RelishMix saying, “most concerning is the 5,3K average daily YouTube views for the top clips –the usual movie in the genre earns 35.8K”. That said, RelishMix acknowledges, “The STX campaign has leveraged its star Garner to the max with behind-the-scenes clips and a variety of official scenes teased to fans.” She counts 3.8M across Instagram and Facebook.

Word is Peppermint was a service deal for STX, and they could make a few million as their exposure is negligible.  The net production cost after incentives was supposedly in the mid $20Ms. This person-with-a-gun genre has been overdone stateside with this start being blase; the larger play for this tired fare is abroad: Liam Neeson’s The Commuter made close to 70% of its global $120M WW box office abroad with U.S./Canada being an afterthought. Also, this fare traditionally over-converts in ancillary markets, but the 14% Rotten Tomatoes could slow that considerably.

It’s too bad there wasn’t more promotion here with Peppermint because 53% women who turned up enjoyed the movie with an A-. There were also other older demos who savored Peppermint as well: The 35-49 set (30%, A-) and the 50+ crowd (46%, A-). We hear STX kept it thrifty on TV spots, shelling out only $6M on TV spots. Seventy-eight percent of the crowd was over 25. STX is calling the final female turnout at 56%.

Warner Bros/China Gravity’s The Meg is in fourth with a $3M Saturday, +124% over Friday, for a fifth weekend of $6M, -43%, for a running total of $131.5M.

Sony’s Searching is in 5th place with an estimated $4.5M third weekend, -25% off a Saturday that earned $2M, +40% over Friday. Cume by EOD Sunday will be at $14.3M.

Freestyle’s God Bless the Broken Road is landing outside the top 10 with an unholy $1.5M estimated three-day at 1,272 locations.

Sunday chart will be updated later this afternoon.

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Weekend chart based on Saturday AM industry estimates:

WEEKEND B.O. FOR SEPT. 7-9

thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) fri 3-day (-%) total wk
1 The Nun NL/WB 3,876 $21.1M $50M  $50M 1
2 Crazy Rich Asians WB 3,865 $3.8M (-34%) $12.9M (-41%) $135.5M 4
3 Peppermint STX/Lake 2,980 $4.6M $12M  $12M 1
4 The Meg WB/CR 3,511 (-250) $1.4M (-40%) $5.2M (-51%) $130.7M 5
5 Searching Sony 2,009 (+802) $1.4M (-28%) $4.5M (-25%) $14.3M 3
6 M:I – Fallout Par/Sky 2,334 (-305) $1M (-35%) $3.7M (-46%) $212M 7
7 Christopher Robin Dis 2,518 (-407) $813K (-35%) $3.1M (-41%) $91.6M 6
8 Operation Finale MGM 1,818 $864K (-50%) $3M (-50%) $14.1M 2
9 BlacKkKlansman Foc 1,547 (-219) $761K (-41%) $2.6M (-26%)  $43.4M 5
10 alpha S8/Sony 2,521 (-360) $557K (-45%) $2.4M (-47%) $32.3M 4

FRIDAY MIDDAY UPDATE: No prayers or miracles needed here: New Line’s The Nun is heading to the best opening yet for a Conjuring universe film with industry estimates at $46M for the weekend, $19.5M for Friday which includes that record preview take for the genre series last night of $5.4M.

Previous best domestic opening in the series was for the first chapter, The Conjuring which grossed $41.8M over its first Friday-to-Sunday. The Nun is also headed toward the best Friday ever for the James Wan created franchise. What about that awful Rotten Tomatoes score of 30% for Nun?”Horror fans don’t care about the Rotten Tomatoes and the reviews,” says one rival studio executive, giving a thumbs up to Warners.

No. 2 is between Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians in weekend 4 with $12M and STX’s Peppermint at $11.5M at this point in time. The latter is looking at a $4.5M Friday.

Freestyle Releasing’s faith-based drama God Bless the Broken Road meanwhile needs prayers if business is going to get any better, filing in with a less than $2M weekend at 1,230 locations. The movie was directed by God’s Not Dead filmmaker Harold Cronk with a script by Cronk and Jennifer Dornbush.

EXCLUSIVE: 2ND UPDATE: We’re hearing from sources this morning that New Line’s The Nun is coming in higher than expected with an estimated $5.4M, which easily makes it a record for a Conjuring universe Thursday night preview slaying Annabelle: Creation‘s $4M.

New Line

With such a great start, the hope is that business keeps clicking as genre films can sometimes be front-loaded. Tracking is excited and has The Nun between $47M-$52M.  Annabelle: Creation‘s Thursday repped 27% of its opening day Friday. A year ago, Warner Bros. woke this traditionally languid post-Labor Day frame alive with Stephen King’s It which drew an awesome $13.5M Thursday night before a $123.4M opening weekend.

The Nun‘s Thursday night also bests the $3.64M preview cash made by The Purge: Election Year, which was the highest preview night for that Universal/Blumhouse genre franchise.

Among pics in regular release Warner Bros. Crazy Rich Asians was No. 1 yesterday with an estimated $1.4M (-16% from Wednesday) bringing its three week take to $122.6M.

STX’s Peppermint made around $800K at 2,340 locations last night. The Jennifer Garner pic expands to 2,980 today with an eye on $10M-$13M. The pic best the previews of other R-rated action titles, Death Wish, ($650k) as well as STX’s The Foreigner ($775K). However, Peppermint is under STX’s own Mark Wahlberg R-rated action pic Mile 22 which took in a $1M in previews before a $5.2M Friday, $13.7M opening and current running cume through three weeks of $33.9M.

 

1st UPDATE, Thursday 9:15PM: In early estimates New Line’s horror pic The Nun is on its way to a heavenly-sent Thursday night of $4M+ which if these figures maintain will make it the best preview in the The Conjuring universe ever. Previews began at 7PM tonight.

These figures do not come from Warner Bros, but Deadline exclusive sources, and as we always couch they can be higher or lower by tomorrow morning. But the B.O. faithful (stat peeps) believe The Nun is blessed.

The best Thursday night posted by a Conjuring pic belongs to last summer’s Annabelle: Creation which scared up $4M before a $15M Friday and $35M opening weekend. The Conjuring 2 is the next best Thursday with $3.4M, followed by a $16.3M Friday in June 2016 and three-day opening of $40.4M. The Conjuring posted a Thursday night of $3.3M,  followed by a $16.9M Friday, $41.8M opening; still the best for the franchise. Annabelle made $2.1M in previews, $15.4M Friday, and $37.1M opening over October 3-5, 2014. Reviews off of 64 submitted to Rotten Tomatoes are yielding a 33% Rotten score for The Nun, which means not every critic has filed. While both Conjuring movies and Annabelle: Creation earned great RT scores, Annabelle was able to lash at her 29% Rotten rating with the franchise’s third best weekend opening. The Nun cost a reported $22M before P&A. These New Line genre pics are always built to rain cash down on the Burbank, CA lot.

Tracking services have raised their opening for The Nun from where we saw them earlier in the week putting the range now at $47M-$52M in U.S./Canada at 3,876 theaters — the widest debut ever for a Conjuring pic besting the first weekend theater count of Annabelle: Creation (3,502). Should the Corin Hardy-directed pic reach that level, it’s a hands down record opening for the genre franchise. For the fifth weekend in a row, Warner Bros. will own the No. 1 spot at the box office, a sensation that began with The Meg on Aug. 10, and continued with another three No. 1 consecutive weeks for Crazy Rich Asians. 

Nancy Tartaglione reports the following about the overseas prospects for The Nun saying that its global debut could reach as high as $97M. Overseas projections before any ticket sales have been counted are between $35M-$45M+, and likely on the high side. The release patterns on the previous Conjuring titles have been different internationally, but using the comp to Annabelle which is likewise a derivative of The Conjuring series, that movie bowed to about $40M in like-for-like markets, but not adjusted for exchange rates. There’s word of mouth and a clear corridor here that has no major openers while overseas holdovers will continue. The markets where The Nun will not be giving a blessing this session include France, Italy, Russia, Korea and Japan which all go next weekend. We hear that the UK and Mexico are tracking strongly. That’s not a surprise. Latin America leans into horror and the film held a junket in Mexico recently with a screening inside an old convent. Similarly, a UK screening was done in an old abbey. The last series pic, Annabelle Creation’s top markets where Mexico, Korea and Brazil. Mexico and Brazil led the original. The Conjuring 2 had a mix of Mexico, the UK, Korea, Brazil and Indonesia in the Top 5. Best overseas and global haul for a Conjuring pic belongs to Conjuring 2 with $217.9M abroad, $320M global.

STX Entertainment’s Jennifer Garner action pic Peppermint is also held previews tonight at 7PM.