The curse of the 2016 sequel will seemingly meet its match this weekend, as popular continuations of hit movies invade North American theaters on their way to solid domestic grosses.
With X-Men: Apocalypse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows quickly tumbling their way down the top 10, there’s more than enough room for newcomers The Conjuring 2, Now You See Me 2, and Warcraft to make waves amid another weekend stuffed with multiple new wide releases.
Though 2016 has become a graveyard for high-profile sequels (Alice Through the Looking Glass, Zoolander 2, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War have all underperformed in North America), both cinematic continuations hitting theaters Friday are on-track for suitable grosses, with The Conjuring 2 poised to take the crown after the dazzling run of its predecessor in 2013. While it is expected to disappoint in North America, Warcraft, however, could put up a worthy fight for the No. 2 slot, with big foreign totals continuing to roll in for the expensive video game adaptation that has thus far grossed more than $90 million in China alone.
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Here’s how the June 10-12 weekend box office showdown might play out:1. The Conjuring 2 — $35 million
Taking the summer 2013 box office by storm, Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring, based on the spooky real-life dealings of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, grossed $41.9 million in its opening weekend nearly three years ago. Its sequel, also directed by James Wan with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson returning, is opening on approximately 3,200 screens this weekend, and will bring the series back to No. 1 at the weekend box office.
For starters, strong critical reviews for a modern horror film are almost an anomaly, but The Conjuring 2 has them, as 65 percent of critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes have given the film a positive review (the average score is also a 6.5/10). The film is also tracking well with younger audiences, though cross-demographic appeal is largely what contributed to the first film’s overwhelming success around the world.
On top of his success directing action movies like Furious 7 to $1.5 billion worldwide, Wan has a great track record when it comes to directing profitable horror films, tracing back to his feature debut with Saw ($103.9 million worldwide on a $1.2 million budget), Insidious ($97 million worldwide on a $1.5 million budget), and Insidious: Chapter 2 ($161.9 million on a $5 million budget). This bodes well for fans of the director’s style, which consistently produces horror films that stick their landing with audiences.
Ahead of opening next weekend in European territories, The Conjuring 2 debuts in 49 foreign territories this week, including Mexico (where horror films traditionally fare very well), Australia, Brazil, Korea. With a budget reportedly in the low-$40 million range, The Conjuring 2 should gross well beyond that globally in its first three days of release, including a solid (albeit slightly below the original’s) domestic haul.2. Now You See Me 2 —$25 million
Now You See Me 2, with a budget in the $90-$100 million range, has huge shoes to fill; not only did its 2013 predecessor gross a solid $29.4 million in its opening weekend at the domestic box office (huge for an original title in today’s industry), it went on to become arguably the most unexpected runaway hit of the year, grossing $351.7 million worldwide during its run. With most of the cast returning for Now You See Me 2 (save for Melanie Laurent and Isla Fisher), fans can likely expect the same appealing chemistry to sizzle onscreen just as it did in the first film, though new additions like Lizzy Caplan, Sanaa Lathan, and Daniel Radcliffe add fresh appeal as well.
Most estimates peg the film for a North American opening in the $20-$25 million range from 3,232 locations, which is still a decent number given how overcrowded the market is. The only problem for Now You See Me 2, however, is that its legs are probably nowhere near as sturdy as its forerunner’s. Critics haven’t been as kind this time around (it currently sits at 34 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 4.8/10), though audience anticipation is strong, as the film has been tracking well on social media with an increase of 200,000 likes on Facebook over the last three weeks, according to Box Office Pro, signaling a warm (though perhaps not sustained) welcome.3. Warcraft —$22 million
Duncan Jones’ Warcraft hits 3,396 North American screens this weekend with a robust international gross already under its belt. Though it is widely expected to debut with lukewarm domestic numbers by Sunday’s end, its performance in the U.S. and Canada is but a small part of a much bigger puzzle. Based on the wildly popular Blizzard Entertainment video game series with millions of active subscriber accounts, Universal can rest easy as the film’s international appeal has carried it to more than $168 million worldwide for a No. 1 debut in 25 of the 28 global markets it has been released in thus far, with an additional 20 countries receiving the film the same day it hits North American theaters.
Warcraft brought in the biggest Thursday gross ever (around $45 million) in China following a huge estimated $46 million opening on Wednesday, upping its total in the country to more than $90 million and counting. With more than 1.7 million likes on its official Facebook page, Warcraft also seems to be making a decent impact with its target demographic via their go-to medium: the internet.
Given its low critical reviews (28 percent on Metacritic) and lack of bankable star power among the cast, the picture is, judging by its foreign numbers, seemingly selling itself on brand alone, proving that, like The Angry Birds Movie, video games can be adapted into top-grossing movies, and that a film’s domestic performance is not the sole point of discussion when analyzing box office potential.4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows —$13 million
Despite little theatrical competition, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival film still dipped almost 60 percent from its first-weekend gross of $65 million back in 2014. Its sequel, Out of the Shadows, is going up against three high profile titles in its second week of release, one of which (Warcraft) is gunning for a similar audience base. The young male demographic has been overserved thus far into the summer, with Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Out of the Shadows, and Warcraft all opening wide since the beginning of May. Judging by audience reaction (A- grade on CinemaScore), Out of the Shadows has slightly more to offer than its precursor, but a saturated playing field means something has to give to make room for the splashy titles hitting theaters this weekend, and Out of the Shadows is looking to take a hit so The Conjuring 2, Warcraft, and Now You See Me 2 can rise.5. Me Before You —$11 million
As the only major romantic film of the summer, Me Before You occupies a unique spot among the summer movie market. Its higher-than-anticipated opening weekend of $18.7 million speaks to the long-term prospects of the Emilia Clarke-starring film, which is based on Jojo Moyes’ popular novel of the same name. While major book adaptations revolving around romance can tumble hard in their second weekend (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns are two recent examples), Me Before You is still one of the only films in wide release largely targeting women, and it should end its second weekend with a softer-than-average fall, in-line with the grossing trajectory of something like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.