Credit: Warner Bros

Animated movies have topped the box office for the past four weekends, but this time around, audiences were ready to embrace something a bit edgier. As such, Warner Bros.’ horror film The Conjuring easily topped a crowded weekend with an eye-popping $41.5 million.

The $20 million James Wan-directed title garnered the best horror debut of the year, trumping The Purge‘s $34.1 million bow in May. It also had the second-best debut ever for an R-rated horror film, trailing only Paranormal Activity 3, which opened with $52.6 million in 2011. The film notched a powerful $14,306 per theater average, and if it receives strong word-of-mouth (which seems likely), it could become a $100 million smash. Audiences, which were 53 percent female and 59 percent above the age of 25, issued The Conjuring an excellent “A-” CinemaScore grade — an especially impressive rating given the fact that the horror genre that has seen its fair share of “D” and “F” grades.

The Conjuring‘s debut marks a career high for Wan, who broke onto the scene in 2004 with his $55.2 million hit Saw, a film so buzzy it steered horror films into the torture direction for years after its release. In 2011, Wan scored a spookier hit with Insidious, which, like The Conjuring, starred Patrick Wilson. Insidious earned $54 million against a $1.5 million budget and now has a sequel hitting theaters on September 13. The Conjuring will easily outgross both of those films, though it’s all but guaranteed that Wan’s next effort, Fast & Furious 7, will be his biggest hit yet.

Despicable Me 2 held strong in second place, dipping 43 percent to $25.1 million in its third weekend. The $76 million sequel from Universal and Illumination Entertainment needed only 17 days to surpass the original Despicable Me‘s $251.5 million domestic total. Today, the film has earned $276.2 million. Overseas, Despicable Me 2 has already surpassed the $300 million mark, pushing its worldwide total to $584.6 million.

In third place, Turbo started its box office run at a snail’s pace. The $135 million animated comedy, featuring the voice of Ryan Reynolds as a radioactive snail, grossed $21.5 million in its first weekend — the worst debut for a DreamWorks Animation film since 2006’s Flushed Away opened with $18.8 million. Hot on the heels of Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, it’s likely that Turbo suffered because audiences have had their fill of family fare over the past few weeks. Fortunately, the crowds that did see Turbo liked what they saw and gave it an “A” CinemaScore grade, which could help word-of-mouth in the future, though there’s almost no chance the film matches its budget domestically.

Turbo‘s lackluster debut casts some shadow on Fox and DreamWorks Animation’s infant relationship. Earlier this year, Fox distributed The Croods, its first DreamWorks Animation-produced film in a five-year deal between the studios. The caveman comedy grossed $186 million domestically and $582 million worldwide. The fact that Turbo will come nowhere close to those numbers makes its opening all the more disappointing.

Grown Ups 2 fell 52 percent from its first weekend to $20 million in its second frame. Sony’s $80 million Adam Sandler comedy continues to perform well despite its critical savaging, and it has now earned $79.5 million after ten days. Grown Ups 2 is on track to pass the $100 million mark with ease, and it will become Sandler’s 13th live-action comedy to reach that milestone. Whether you love Sandler or hate him, you can’t deny his remarkable box office record.

In fifth place, Red 2 took in $18.5 million, 15 percent less than the original Red‘s $21.8 million opening in 2010. The Summit sequel starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, and John Malkovich, got a big budget-boost from its predecessor, but like The Expendables 2, that didn’t grow the film’s audience at the box office. While Red cost only $58 million and ultimately earned $199 million worldwide, Red 2 cost $85 million, and its weaker American debut suggests it won’t climb nearly as high at the box office. Audiences gave Red 2 a “B+” CinemaScore grade.

1. The Conjuring – $41.5 million

2. Despicable Me 2 – $25 million

3. Turbo – $21.5 million

4. Grown Ups 2 – $20 million

5. Red 2 – $18 million

Further down the chart, R.I.P.D., in which Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges play cops in the afterlife, bombed with $12.8 million in its first three days. The film also stars Mary Louise Parker, which means that both she and Reynolds faced themselves at the box office this weekend — and both fared poorly. In press notes sent to journalists this morning, Universal admits “In this crowded marketplace, R.I.P.D. did not find the size audience it needed and Universal is disappointed in the weekend result.” The studio says the action comedy cost $130 million (though its budget has been reported at $154 million), which makes R.I.P.D. an expensive misfire for the studio that hasn’t suffered a major misstep since Battleship. This year at the box office has been riddled with costly mistakes, and R.I.P.D. joins the ranks of After Earth, White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and Jack the Giant Slayer — big-budget tentpoles that audiences firmly rejected. Crowds issued R.I.P.D. a negative “C+” CinemaScore.

So for those of you keeping score: Turbo, Red 2, and R.I.P.D. collectively cost $350 million and earned $52.8 million this weekend at the box office. The Conjuring, meanwhile, cost $20 million and earned $41.5 million.

Despicable Me 2
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