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The Weekend Movie Takeaway: 'Anabelle Comes Home'

July 1, 2019
2 min read time

Although it was considered something of a placeholder ahead of the July 4th holiday, this past weekend's box office offered up some important some lessons from a narrative perspective nevertheless.

Last week’s reported demise of the Toy Story franchise proved somewhat exaggerated with the well-reviewed fourth film in the Pixar franchise. It took in $58 million its second weekend, putting to rest the hand-wringing that came about when the film failed to meet initial estimates in its first weekend in theaters.

It highlights perhaps how ridiculous it is to judge a film's success on those early numbers, and once again proves that Pixar knows what it's doing in terms of giving audiences what they want.

As word began to spread about just how good Toy Story 4 is (i.e., just how good the narrative is), the macro audience put aside any notions of franchise fatigue and began showing up in even greater numbers than second weekend estimates would have had us believe.

The increased second weekend numbers also speak to the faith the audience has in Pixar, one of the few studios with a reputation for always telling great stories.

The biggest trend in macro narratives of late is, of course, the shared universe. And everyone acknowledges Marvel as the most successful executor of this concept. As other major studios throw everything at the wall to try and emulate the MCU's success, there's a second shared cinematic universe that doesn't trumpet its successes as much as Marvel, but which is also achieving major success in this area.

The Warner Bros/New Line's Conjuring universe just released its seventh movie: Annabelle Comes Home, which opened to large numbers ahead of this past weekend. Combined with the weekend gross, it garnered a total opening haul of more than $31 million.

It's the second Conjuring-related film to be released this year, following The Curse Of La Llorona, which was able to leverage its rather tenuous connection to the Conjuring universe into an impressive $54 million dollar gross off of a $9 million budget.

The Annabelle series (of which there have now been three) have a more direct association with the central Conjuring films, and unlike the previous two haunted doll films, this particular entry features Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, the two stars of the main Conjuring films.

The embracing of Annabelle Comes Home over the weekend once again shows just how well director-producer James Wan and his collaborators have been at setting up narrative expectations for these horror films, all of which appear to be benefitting greatly from their connections to each other. Outside of their shared universe, it's difficult to picture audiences caring as much.

The film that took third place in the weekend box office results also offers some notable insights into large-scale narratives. Yesterday took in a healthy $17 million, with audiences (if not critics) generally giving the film a thumbs-up. Like recent hits Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, Yesterday garners most of its power from how effectively it uses the extremely popular songs its narrative revolves around – in this case, the work of The Beatles.

Unlike Rhapsody and Rocketman however, Yesterday came up with an innovative narrative on which to hang the use of those songs: a young musician wakes up one day as the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles, and uses their music to achieve fame and fortune.

It doesn't get much more high concept than that, and with non-superhero blockbuster cinema increasingly reliant on popular song catalogues, it's a good example of doing something more interesting with well-known songs beyond the predictable biopic treatment.

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