‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Competes With ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ To Scare Audiences
Memorial Day weekend gave us proof that audiences are ready to return to the cinemas, as long as there is strong enough content to draw them in. With an overall weekend haul of $80.6 million, over 85% of which came from A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella, the domestic box office saw its best weekend since March 2020. While a repeat of the holiday weekend’s numbers is unlikely, AQP2 will battle it out with this week’s major newcomer, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, to lead another weekend that shows the business continues on its road to recovery.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the third proper Conjuring film, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga returning as the demonologist couple, and it is the eighth film overall in the Conjuring universe. The series’ top opener was The Nun with $53.8 million, followed by the first two Conjuring films which both opened just above $40 million. Those numbers are improbable for the third film, though, with a simultaneous debut on HBO Max, capacity restrictions, and lingering audience hesitance giving the release a handicap. The pre-release IMDb page view count is running close to the last two Conjuring universe films, Annabelle Comes Home ($20.3 million opening) and The Curse of La Llorona ($26.3 million), also the two lowest openers in the series.

If The Devil Made Me Do It, which is playing on 3100 screens, opens at the lower end of the franchise, it will likely come in at number two for the weekend, behind AQP2. However, if it over-performs compared to the last two franchise entries, it could take number one and best Godzilla vs. Kong as the top opening grosser for an HBO Max simul-release ($31.6 million), though this is certainly a long shot. That is not the only milestone the film is in the running for. The Conjuring franchise is the highest-grossing pure-horror franchise globally, with $1.919 billion, and The Devil Made Me Do It has a good shot of taking the series past the $2 billion mark. The lowest-grossing film in the franchise is The Curse of La Llorona, with $123 million worldwide, so The Devil Made Me Do It only needs to gross two-thirds of La Llorona to get the series to $2 billion. Reviews for the film (66% Tomatometer) put it below the first two Conjuring films (86% and 80%), but in line with Annabelle: Creation (71%) and Annabelle Comes Home (65%) and well above the other spinoffs.

Cruella should handily take third place behind the dueling horror films, but more important than its second weekend in the U.S. is its debut at the box office in China, opening on Sunday, June 6th. Like A Quiet Place II, which earned $15 million in the Middle Kingdom last weekend, the film’s release is a last-minute one. While it may be hard to give the film a marketing push in such a short window, Cruella may benefit from the film’s positive reception worldwide. Disney’s live action takes on their animated classics have been hit-and-miss in China, but unlike Mulan, which opened to $23 million and was viewed as a disappointment, Cruella’s success is less determined by its Chinese box-office performance. Among Cruella’s other new markets are Russia, Greece, and the Netherlands.

For those more interested in mares than scares, the weekend’s other newcomer, Dreamworks Animations’ Spirit Untamed (3200 theaters), will likely trot into fourth place. This is only the second theatrical release in the Spirit franchise, coming nearly two decades after Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron released, opening to $23.2 million over the long Memorial Day weekend in 2002 and ending its run with $73.3 million. The new film is less connected to the original than it is to the tangentially-related Netflix spinoff series "Spirit Riding Free." With many of the same characters and a similar story, Spirit Untamed acts as a feature-length standalone reboot to the series, with more star power among the voice actors, including Isabela Merced and Jake Gyllenhaal in the leads.

This is a lower budget project for Dreamworks, with outsourced rather than in-house animation, so it should not be compared to their marquee titles. The pre-release interest based on IMDb view counts is well below those of any of the film’s comps, but family films have proven to be leggy during the pandemic, and this theatrical exclusive is the first animated family film since Raya and the Last Dragon debuted in early March. With live-action/animation hybrid Peter Rabbit 2 (releasing June 18) being its only competition coming this month, Spirit Untamed may find an audience even if it has a tepid opening weekend, though the middling reviews (42% Tomatometer) don’t indicate that strong word of mouth is likely.

IFC’s Undine is one of this weekend’s most significant limited releases. From German arthouse favorite Christian Petzold, it comes on the heels of the writer/director’s previous films: Barbara ($1 million), Phoenix ($3.2 million), and Transit ($815,000).