Forecast: 'Gone Girl,' 'Annabelle' to Bring Box Office Back to Life
Friday AM Update: Annabelle and Gone Girl both had impressive debuts on Thursday night, and each now seems poised to wind up at the higher end of weekend expectations.

Annabelle took in $2.1 million from late night shows. That's lower than The Conjuring ($3.31 million) and both of the Purge movies ($3.4 million and $2.6 million). All three of those titles opened during the Summer, though, when Thursday night shows are easier to attend.

A better comparison is last September's Insidious Chapter 2, which took in $1.5 million on Thursday night on its way to $40.3 million for the weekend. While it's premature to assume Annabelle will open that high, it does seem like $30-million-plus is a safe bet now.

Meanwhile, David Fincher's Gone Girl opened $1.25 million from late Thursday shows. In comparison, Gravity earned $1.4 million from early showings on its way to over $55 million in its first weekend. Again, it's too soon to say that Gone Girl is on its way to $40-million-plus, but a $30 million debut seems like a lock.

Forecast: After a slow September, the box office should bounce back in a big way on the first weekend of October.

Gone Girl and Annabelle each have passionate, motivated fans that seem poised to turn out in droves this weekend; it's quite possible that each movie winds up above $30 million this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Nicolas Cage-starring remake of Left Behind is also opening nationwide, while Reese Witherspoon drama The Good Lie will receive a moderate release.

Gone Girl is the latest movie from director David Fincher, who has been reliably bankable in recent years: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) all earned over $95 million at the domestic box office. The movie also has some on-screen star power courtesy of Ben Affleck, who has recently scored in Argo and The Town.

The real star here, though, is the novel upon which the movie is based. The book has sold millions of copies over the past two years, and is undeniably one of the most popular works of fiction in years among adult readers. Gone Girl producers took care to ensure that the big-screen version was a faithful adaptation: author Gillian Flynn penned the screenplay herself, and many of the book's popular characters and sequences are on display in trailers and commercials.

Aside from connecting with fans of the book, the marketing campaign has also done a solid job reaching out to non-readers by conveying the movie's central mystery: did Nick Dunne (Affleck) kill his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike)? In the past week, marketing has turned toward highlighting the strong reviews (around 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), while also mounting a major publicity campaign with Affleck, Pike, and even Tyler Perry doing the rounds.

Fox is expecting around $20 million, which is generally in line with movies like Captain Phillips ($25.7 million), Fincher's The Social Network ($22.4 million), Affleck's Argo ($19.5 million) and last September's Prisoners ($20.8 million). However, there is data that suggests the movie could dramatically exceed that modest expectation.

On Wednesday, Fandango reported that Gone Girl is out-selling recent October releases Taken 2 and Paranormal Activity 3, which each opened over $49 million. They're also reporting that it's selling in line with Gravity, which scored $55.8 million on this same weekend last year.

An opening in that neighborhood would be incredible, though it's hard to see an adult-leaning R-rated drama wind up near $50 million. One reason it may be so high is that Fandango is offering a free download of the book with each sale, which could be causing more people to turn to the online ticket seller than would otherwise.

Even if Gone Girl misses the mark this weekend, the real story will be how it performs in the long run. The book's audience seems to skew older; that crowd is less likely to rush out on opening weekend. Add in strong reviews and some likely awards buzz, and Gone Girl should hold on well through the rest of October.

Gone Girl also opens in 39 international markets this weekend, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, the U.K. and Russia. Fincher's recent movies have performed well overseas: The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) earned $128 million and $130 million, respectively. That seems like a good benchmark for Gone Girl.

Continued with a look at 'Annabelle,' 'Left Behind' and 'The Good Lie,' along with official predictions >>

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