It was a photo finish at the box office this weekend between Gone Girl and Annabelle, though both movies are winners regardless of their rank. David Fincher‘s adaptation of Gillian Flynn‘s immensely popular novel took first place with $38 million, while the prequel to The Conjuring was a very close second with $37.2 million. Those impressive debuts led to an overall boom at the box office: the top 12 earned an estimated $141.8 million, which is up 23 percent from the same weekend last year (when Gravity led the way with over $55 million). In fact, this is the biggest weekend ever in the month of October. Playing at 3,014 theaters, Gone Girl opened to an estimated $38 million this weekend. That’s the biggest opening ever for director David Fincher ahead of Panic Room, and its star Ben Affleck‘s highest debut since Daredevil in 2003. While it couldn’t quite match Shutter Island—also a stylish thriller adaptation from an acclaimed director—it was leagues above similarly well-reviewed October releases like The Social Network ($22.4 million), Argo ($19.4 million) and Captain Phillips ($25.7 million). Gone Girl‘s success can be attributed to a few factors, including the star power of the two biggest names attached to the project. Director David Fincher has built up a solid fan base over the past two decades, and Gone Girl appeared to fit nicely in to his crime thriller wheelhouse (along with Seven, Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Affleck has also reestablished himself as an A-list talent in the past few years thanks to his work on Argo and The Town, along with his much-hyped upcoming role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The biggest draw, though, was the story itself. Gillian Flynn’s novel has been widely read in the past few years, and fans of the book were eager to see how the tricky narrative would translate on the big screen. For non-readers, advertisements nicely established the premise (did Nick Dunne kill his wife?), and the opportunity to unravel the mystery was an enticing one. Gone Girl‘s audience skewed older (75 percent 25 and up) and female (60 percent). It received a lukewarm “B” CinemaScore, though anecdotally the word-of-mouth seems stronger than that (think the way The Wolf of Wall Street received a horrible CinemaScore on its way to great holds earlier this year). Still, the movie probably won’t hold up as well as Captain Phillips or The Social Network. Not that it needs to, anyway: based on this debut, it’s a safe bet that Gone Girl tops The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127.5 million) to become Fincher’s highest-grossing movie ever.
In a very close second place, Annabelle scored an excellent $37.2 million from 3,185 locations. That ranks sixth all-time among supernatural horror movies; among recent entries, it lags a bit behind predecessor The Conjuring ($41.9 million) and Insidious Chapter 2 ($40.3 million). Both of those movies were directed by Annabelle producer James Wan, who has firmly established himself as one of the biggest behind-the-camera names in horror right now. Annabelle held well throughout the weekend: its Friday gross represented around 42 percent of its three-day frame. In comparison, the Paranormal Activity sequels and the Insidious sequel were all much more front-loaded (around 50 percent on Friday). This suggests that Annabelle may hold up a bit better in the long run. The main driver of Annabelle‘s success was its connection to The Conjuring, which is one of the most popular horror movies of the past decade. Marketing material hit this point over and over again with very clear messaging (“Before The Conjuring, there was Annabelle”). It also helped that Annabelle arrived in theaters less than 15 months later, which meant that The Conjuring was still fresh in the minds of horror fans (a Conjuring sequel is set to arrive in theaters next October). Annabelle‘s audience was 51 percent female, and skewed younger (54 percent under the age of 25). Its “B” CinemaScore is solid for this genre, and suggests that audiences liked the movie quite a bit more than critics (32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Even if it does fall off quickly from here, Annabelle is still likely to earn at least $80 million total. In third place, The Equalizer fell 44 percent to an estimated $19 million. That drop is comparable to February’s Non-Stop (45 percent) and fellow TV adaptation 21 Jump Street (44 percent). The Denzel Washington action movie has earned $64.5 million so far, and remains on track to close above $100 million. The Boxtrolls eased a light 28 percent to $12.4 million; in comparison, Laika Animation’s ParaNorman fell 39 percent at the same point. Through 10 days, The Boxtrolls has taken in $32.5 million, and should earn over $60 million by the end of its run. The Maze Runner rounded out the Top Five with $12 million. That’s a 31 percent drop from last week, which represents another strong hold for the young-adult adaptation. To date, The Maze Runner has banked $73.9 million, and will likely close north of $100 million.
Playing at 1,825 theaters, the Left Behind remake opened in sixth place with an estimated $6.85 million. While that’s not on par with God’s Not Dead ($9.2 million from less than 800 theaters), it’s still a decent opening for this lightly-marketed release. Bollywood’s Knight & Day remake, titled Bang Bang, opened in 12th place with $1.22 million. That’s the biggest opening of the year for a Bollywood production. The Good Lie opened at 461 theaters this weekend and earned a paltry $935,000. It’s unlikely that distributor Warner Bros. gives it much of a push after this, and it will almost certainly wind up with less than $10 million total. This should only be a minor speed bump for star Reese Witherspoon; she’s one of the main producers on Gone Girl, and has a ton of buzz surrounding her performance in Wild (Dec. 12th). Playing at 17 theaters, Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Children opened to an estimated $48,000 this weekend. That translates to a $2,824 per-theater average, which is horrible for this type of release; in comparison, Reitman’s Up in the Air averaged $78,763 at 15 locations on its opening weekend. In spite of the slow start, Paramount is still planning to release the movie nationwide on October 17th.