Conjuring Scores; Universal Ripped by a Flop
By John Hamann
July 21, 2013
The Conjuring is a big success this weekend, but it’s not the big story. Universal’s R.I.P.D. is the dog of the summer, and is going to cost them what they made on The Purge and part of Fast & Furious 6.
It’s a very interesting frame at the box office for a lot of reasons. The Conjuring is a hit, but it’s trailed by two expensive disappointments and an out and out flop. Even so, the overall box office is still moving along with very healthy numbers. Along with the $20 million Warner Bros. horror title, we have the $135 million Turbo, from DreamWorks Animation and Fox, the $85 million Red 2 from Summit and Lionsgate; and the $130 million R.I.P.D. from Universal. Hollywood’s hot streak ended last weekend with Pacific Rim and Grown Ups 2, but it gets worse this weekend.
First, the good news. Our number film of the weekend is well-reviewed, audiences love it, and it didn’t cost a gazillion dollars to make. That film is The Conjuring, an old-school horror flick from James Wan, one of the minds behind the Saw franchise. The Conjuring earned $3.3 million from Thursday previews, and about $13.7 million on Friday night. That’s a massive success for a film that cost only $20 million to make, as the weekend gross came in at $41.5 million from 2,903 venues. It earned its production budget back by end of day Saturday, and is the second big horror success of the summer, debuting bigger than The Purge ($34.1 million). The Purge is said to have cost $3 million, but I think we all know that backend deals for Ethan Hawke, Jason Blum and Michael Bay and others would have pushed the real cost beyond $20 million. Additionally, The Purge literally collapsed after opening weekend, and hasn’t found much success overseas. The Conjuring is different. Instead of The Purge’s rotten 38% rating, The Conjuring is uber-fresh at 85%. The Purge also received only a C Cinemascore, whereas The Conjuring Cinemascore came with a gorgeous A-, a score not often held by horror flicks.
Warner Bros. and New Line made a good film. They knew it and got the word out – it’s that easy. The studio released the film at two film festivals prior to release – one was a horror fest, the other was the LA Film Festival, where the studio knew they would get west coast critics talking. Out of the LA Fest, the Warner Bros. flick got fabulous reviews, and word-of-mouth started for The Conjuring a month before release. Instead of marketing it to death, Warner Bros. used the press to get word out, and the move worked. Additionally, director Wan used actors audiences were familiar with from the genre. Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious) were cast, as well as familiar names like Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Lili Taylor (Say Anything...). These names give The Conjuring a sense of additional quality that audiences bought. The Conjuring has a much better chance at legs than The Purge ever did, simply because it didn’t go as ridiculously cheap. In the end, the additional funds spent up front will be of benefit to this winner.