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‘Annabelle: Creation’ levitates to no. 1 with $35 million

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – “Annabelle: Creation” may not be able to save the summer — which, after this weekend, will only fall farther behind last year’s pace — but it is doing its part to frighten audiences into theaters.

The latest from New Line and Warner Bros, which serves as the fourth installment in what has become the “Conjuring” extended universe, is casting its evil eye on $35 million from 3,502 locations. That’s a strong start for the horror flick, which was made for about $15 million.

The track record for the franchise is strong — “Annabelle” ($37.1 million); “The Conjuring” ($41.9 million); and “The Conjuring 2” ($40.4 million). David F. Sandberg directed the sequel about a dollmaker whose creation terrorizes a group of orphan girls. For those invested in the “Conjuring” canon, it serves as a prequel to the first “Annabelle.” Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto star in the pic that critics have generally given a thumbs up to (it currently has an 68% on Rotten Tomatoes).

“Annabelle is scary as hell,” said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief at Warner Bros. “And it’s exciting to see how broadly audiences enjoyed it,” he said, adding, “I think our marketing team did a fabulous job.”

The same studio’s “Dunkirk” continues to show strong during its fourth weekend, as it holds onto second place. One of the lone bright spots in a generally dismal summer for the box office, Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic should make an additional $11.4 million this weekend, pushing its domestic total past the $150 million mark.

While it should land in the top three, Open Road’s sequel “Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” appears to be a miss. From 4,003 locations, the animated adventure should earn $8.9 million. That’s less than half of the first “Nut Job” movie, which opened to $19.4 million before going on to take in $120.9 million worldwide during its run. The sequel’s story centers around a group of animals who attempt to save their…

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