‘Nun’ scares away ‘Haunting’ as spooky season begins

We’re No. 2: Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot and Tina Fey as Ariadne Oliver are shown in “A Haunting in Venice.”

Warner Bros.' "The Nun II" held onto first place last weekend, while Disney and 20th Century Studios' "A Haunting in Venice" crept into second, signaling the arrival of fall at the domestic box office.

"The Nun II" came up with $14.7 million in its second outing for a North American cumulative of $56.5 million, while "A Haunting in Venice" opened to $14.5 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The third installment in actor-director Kenneth Branagh's series of Agatha Christie adaptations matched early box-office projections that ranged from $13 million to $15 million in the United States and Canada.

"A Haunting in Venice" landed in between its predecessors, "Murder on the Orient Express," which kick-started the franchise with $28.7 million in November 2017, and "Death on the Nile," which debuted at $12.9 million in February 2022.

Internationally, the mystery premiered at $22.7 million for a worldwide total of $37.2 million, according to studio estimates.

Helmed by Branagh, "A Haunting in Venice" sees the filmmaker reprise his role as mustachioed detective Hercule Poirot, back on the case after a chilling seance turns deadly at a Venetian Palazzo. The ensemble cast also includes Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio and Michelle Yeoh.

The PG-13-rated picture, based on Christie's 1969 novel "Hallowe'en Party," received a solid 79% fresh score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and a B grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

"Branagh's Poirot ... has bared his own physical and psychological scars in this series before," writes New York Times film critic Justin Chang.

"For the first time, though, his backstory doesn't feel concocted for effect. Instead, it subtly resonates with a case whose rich human dimensions -- deferred dreams, unshakable traumas, grieving parents and children -- sound a grim echo of the world beyond the whodunit. For all the creakily derivative supernatural hokum on display, the ghosts that haunt this movie turn out to be all too persuasively real."

Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office last weekend were Columbia Pictures' "The Equalizer 3," which nabbed $7.2 million in its third frame for a North American haul of $73.7 million; Focus Features' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3," which grossed $4.7 million in its second run for a North American cumulative of $18.6 million.

And "Barbie" also remains in the picture at No. 5. For the ninth straight weekend, Greta Gerwig's box-office sensation added $4 million to bring its domestic total to $625 million and its global haul to $1.42 billion. Meanwhile, "Oppenheimer" has reached $912.7 million, making it the highest grossing bio-pic ever, passing "Bohemian Rhapsody."

It was one of the quietest weekend in movie theaters this year, as Hollywood -- which has spent much of the last two weeks promoting its films at the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals -- treads water and awaits its top fall movies. Some of those, like "Dune: Part Two," have already postponed until next year due to the continuing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

One anticipated fall film, Columbia's "Dumb Money," opted for a platform release, debuting in eight theaters over the weekend before expanding this weekend and going wide Sept. 29. The film, a dramatization of the GameStop stock frenzy, grossed $217,000, for a per-location average of about $27,000.

Opening in wide release this week is Lionsgate's "Expend4bles," starring Jason Statham, Megan Fox, 50 Cent and Sylvester Stallone.