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Warner Bros. set to continue terrifying reign at box office with 'The Nun'

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Warner Bros. set to continue terrifying reign at box office with 'The Nun'

Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. is expected to scare up a strong weekend with its latest horror film, the fourth title in Warner Bros.' profitable The Conjuring franchise.

Hollywood forecasters predict "The Nun," which opens Sept. 7, could see $45 million in its debut weekend, higher than its predecessors, adding greater velocity to Warner Bros.' recent box office momentum.

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Source: Warner Bros.

BoxOffice.com projects a $45 million opening weekend for "The Nun," while both Variety and Deadline Hollywood offer a $36 million to $45 million forecast. Variety suggests the film could move even higher, however, noting that ticket presales for "The Nun" are running stronger than other recent horror breakouts such as "Get Out" and "A Quiet Place." Some tracking suggests the opening could hover above $50 million, Variety adds.

"The Nun," set in 1951 Romania, is positioned as a spinoff of "The Conjuring 2," which hauled in $40.4 million when it opened in 2016. "The Conjuring" kicked off the franchise in 2013 and cracked $40 million for its opening, while spinoffs "Annabelle" and "Annabelle: Creation" each opened above $35 million.

With the largest budget, "The Conjuring 2" was the only franchise installment to drop below $130 million in box office profits, but it still garnered $117.6 million, according to research from Kagan, a media industry research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. Production costs for "The Nun" were the second highest in the franchise, at $22 million.

The film's opening is looking to top its predecessors and other recent horror hits despite a dour response from critics. "The Nun" scored a 30% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of about 2 p.m. ET, Sept. 7. "Annabelle" was the only title in the franchise to date to exit theaters in "rotten" territory.

Even if "The Nun" misses the most bullish forecasts, it could still easily scream past the box office competition over the weekend. If it does, the Sept. 7 weekend would be the fifth in a row for which Warner Bros. commanded the turnstiles, driven by season-leading titles like "The Meg" and "Crazy Rich Asians." BoxOffice.com expects each of those holdovers to exit the Sept. 7 weekend with over $130 million in total domestic box office gross.

On adjacent screens, STX Entertainment will try its hand at the hit-or-miss female-led action genre with "Peppermint," starring Jennifer Garner. The actress launched her career from the action genre with a lead role as a super spy in the "Alias" TV series.

BoxOffice.com forecasts a $13 million opening weekend for "Peppermint." Deadline offers a range of $10 million to $13 million, while Variety ups the title's prospects a bit, to a $10 million to $15 million range.

A list of comparison films from Kagan, including genre-leading Angelina Jolie title "Salt" and recent critical darling "Atomic Blonde," does not do much to kick up optimism for the debut film. "Atomic Blonde" exited in the red by $21.1 million, while "Salt" eeked out a 9.6% profit margin with $38.6 million in net profit after a hefty $364.3 million in total costs. Garner's 2005 action film "Elektra," which opened at $12.8 million against a $43.6 million budget, left theaters underwater by $47.0 million.

Critics seemed underwhelmed by Garner's latest action role, which had a 15% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The last new release for the weekend, "God Bless the Broken Road," will deliver some counterprogramming. Forecasts for the faith-based title top out around $4 million. The genre has seen some profitable breakouts, like 2014's "God’s Not Dead" and 2015's "War Room," but each of those opened above $8 million. The 2015 film "Woodlawn" opened to $4.0 million and exited theaters on an $8.4 million loss. Rotten Tomatoes had a 14% "rotten" rating on "God Bless the Broken Road," with just one "fresh" review out of six aggregated as of about 2 p.m. ET on Sept. 7.

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