It appears "The Nun" is making a habit of dominating the box office.
Like many horrors before it, bad reviews didn't scare off moviegoers from buying tickets for "The Nun II." The sequel to the 2018 hit, released in 3,728 theaters by Warner Bros., topped the box office in its first weekend in North American theaters earning an estimated $32.6 million, the studio said Sunday.
AP's Mark Kennedy wrote in his one star review that it's "a movie that seems destined to pound a nail into this franchise's undead coffin." The movie received a lackluster 45% rotten score and audiences gave it a C+ CinemaScore. But it hardly matters: Horror is perhaps the most reliably critic-proof genre, at least when it comes to opening weekend.
The Michael Graves-directed sequel starring Taissa Farmiga and Storm Reid fell far short of the debut for the first film ($53.8 million), but it's still a solid premiere. "The Nun" movies are part of the so-called Conjuring universe, which now has nine films, and $2.1 billion in box office, to its name. The sequel also played well internationally, picking up $52.7 million from 69 markets (Mexico being the strongest with $8.9 million) and boosting its global debut to $85.3 million.
"To have a horror universe is really powerful in terms of the revenue generating potential," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. "It's a great bet that Warners made on the horror moviegoing experience never waning."
"Almost every scene in the movie unfolds in the same way: Some quivering poppet (altar boy, delivery girl, student) goes wandering into a dusty old space (rectory, cellar, chapel) and has the bejesus scared out of them by some crashing thing (wine jug, window, statue) and the spooky face of the creepy nun demon (Bonnie Aarons, we salute you)," writes film critic Katie Walsh for Tribune News Service.
"Lather, rinse, repeat. It's actually shocking how many times this same scenic formula plays out in 'The Nun II,' and never with any spectacular payoff."
Despite less-than-glowing reviews for both, the "Nun" movies have done relatively well at the domestic box office. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have also made extra money from "Nun"-themed merchandise, such as dolls and costumes. And Aarons recently sued the entertainment companies, alleging that they have profited from said merchandise without giving the face of "The Nun" her fair share.
"The importance of Ms. Aarons' contributions to the success of the films is undeniable," the lawsuit reads.
And there are many more scary movies on the calendar through the fall including "A Death in Venice," which opens this week, "Saw X" on Sept. 29 and "The Exorcist: Believer" on Oct. 6.
Third place went to another new movie: The third installment of Nia Vardalos' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which arrives 21 years after the first film became a massive sleeper hit earning some $369 million against a $5 million production budget. Released by Focus Features in 3,650 theaters, the third film earned an estimated $10 million, overwhelmingly driven by female audiences (71%) who were 25 or older (83%).
Vardalos wrote, directed and stars in "Greek Wedding 3," which brings back John Corbett and takes the gang to Greece. AP's Jocelyn Noveck wrote in her review that the movie, which has gotten mostly poor marks, is "like a thrice-warmed piece of baklava."
"Who can blame [Vardalos] for wanting to finally ship the overworked ethnic-family jokes, tired cultural references and forced zaniness from the Chicago suburbs to the picturesque homeland of the title?" writes film critic Robert Abele for The Times.
"Especially after the 'Mamma Mia!' movies have already taken advantage of that Mediterranean beauty -- and those characters aren't even Greek! And ABBA is Swedish! ... Still, those 'Mamma Mia!' bicker-and-swoon musicals are carefully crafted confections next to the soggy baklava that is 'Greek Wedding 3,' in which the honey from the original film's mixture has fermented, and the dough no longer adheres to any recognizable shape."
The Indian revenge thriller, "Jawan," starring Shah Rukh Khan, opened in fourth place with $6.2 million from only 813 locations. It was released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Khan, a Bollywood superstar, also led another box office sensation this year, "Pathaan," which has made $130 million worldwide.
"Barbie" dropped to No. 5 after 8 triumphant weeks with $5.9 million from 3,281 locations. The Warner Bros. film has now made $620.5 million domestically.
Opening in wide release this week are 20th Century Studios' "A Haunting in Venice," Blue Fox Entertainment's "The Inventor" and Variance Films' "Amerikatsi."