It may have seemed an unlikely candidate for cinematic universe success, but The Conjuring Universe is proving that the horror genre can flourish under this model. This weekend The Conjuring Universe continues its growth with the release of The Nun. Corin Hardy's horror flick is the fifth film in the franchise, and the earliest story within the mythology. And given its performance opening night, The Nun will not be the last Conjuring spinoff in this burgeoning universe. The Nun scared up $5.4 million at the box office in Thursday night preview screenings.

Initial calculations had The Nun taking in something in the $4+ million range, but according to Deadline, those expectations were a bit low and The Nun is actually coming in with $5.4 million. That $5.4 million is easily the best Thursday night preview performance ever for a film in The Conjuring Universe, besting last year's Annabelle: Creation, which took in $4 million from preview screenings. This is a huge start for The Nun, ahead of what should be a big weekend. The Nun is tracking at $47-$52 million this weekend, which should land it comfortably in first place and also make back its $22 million budget. If it meets those estimates, even on the low end, The Nun will also have the record as the largest opening weekend in the franchise, eclipsing The Conjuring's $41.8 million.

Also releasing this weekend is the R-rated revenge thriller Peppermint. The Jennifer Garner film took in around $800k last night and is tracking at a $10-$13 million weekend. Though clearly Warner Bros. and The Nun look to be the big winners here. With The Nun ordained for a first place win, this will mark the fifth weekend in a row that Warner Bros. holds the top spot after the one-two August punch of The Meg and Crazy Rich Asians.

Horror flicks are often immune to bad reviews, and The Nun is overcoming tepid notices and a bit of somewhat controversial marketing to deliver a huge horror weekend. On the same weekend last year, IT became the biggest horror movie ever with a $123.4 million weekend, so clearly back to school time is fertile ground for frights. The performance of The Nun should also bode well for the future of this cinematic universe. The Conjuring Universe is going to keep things tied to the Warrens and the existing spinoffs versus launching separate new series within the universe for now, but either way it is clear that there is a thirst for films in this franchise.

The Nun is in theaters now. Check out what CinemaBlend thought of the film and wander over to our release schedule to see what other frights and delights await you on the silver screen the rest of this year.

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