‘Annabelle: Creation’ is the prequel to ‘Annabelle,’ and it’s genuinely terrifying.

NEW YORK — TheConjuring spinoff Annabelle: Creation scared up an estimated $35 million in North American theaters over the weekend, making it easily the top film and giving the lagging August box office a shot in the arm.

The opening came close to matching the film’s predecessor, Annabelle, which opened with $37.1 million in October 2014. Warner Bros. could celebrate not only the month’s biggest debut but also having the week’s top two films. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk  followed in second with $11.4 million in its fourth weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. At No. 3 was Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature ($8.9 million), followed by The Dark Tower ($7.9 million) and The Emoji Movie (6.6 million). 

Even amid an especially weak August, the well-reviewed horror sequel and modestly budgeted Annabelle: Creation found eager audiences.

“That we were able to do $35 million in what is a very sluggish marketplace was very impressive,” said Jeffrey Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ distribution chief. “We all know that moviegoing begets moviegoing and right now it’s a dip in the content overall.”

The film, the third to spiral out of 2013’s The Conjuring, cost only about $15 million to make. More sequels and spinoffs are being developed in what has become for Warner Bros. a steadily profitable horror franchise bent on old-school frights. The Annabelle offshoot centers on a possessed doll.

Last week’s top film, the poorly received Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower, slid dramatically. The Sony Pictures release, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, toppled nearly 60% on its second weekend with an estimated $7.9 million.

The week’s…