"Annabelle" couldn't scare off "Gone Girl" at the weekend box office.
The Fox thriller starring Ben Affleck as a man whose wife goes missing overcame the Warner Bros. possessed doll horror with a $38 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Both films join the recently released "The Maze Runner" and "The Equalizer" in crossing the $30 million mark this fall, a typically low-earning season at the box office.
"It was virtually a photo finish," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "These two movies couldn't be more different. It shows how if the marketplace presents a diversity of product, audiences will come out. It's the third and fourth $30 million debut of the past two weeks. It's been a great post-summer run."
"Gone Girl" is based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn and was directed by "The Social Network" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" filmmaker David Fincher.
"I think David Fincher made a very provocative, thought-provoking film," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for Fox. "I think there was this crescendo of publicity and social media chatter that made 'Gone Girl' into a zeitgeisty movie that you have to see to be part of the conversation."
While the book climbed to the top of The New York Times bestseller list, the screen adaptation has received lukewarm reviews from many critics, including The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ranier who wrote ....
The film’s stabs at social commentary – the constant barrage of tabloid TV coverage – are crushingly obvious. Affleck is smoothly proficient but (this is probably Fincher’s failing) skimps the darker shades that might have flipped this film from melodrama to drama. Pike is riveting without being altogether interesting. She holds the screen with her beautful blankness. A few of the supporting players, including Kim Dickens, as a suspicious local cop, and Carrie Coon, as Nick’s twin sister, move beyond the formulaic, which is more than can be said for the movie.
"Annabelle" debuted closely behind "Gone Girl" with $37.2 million. The movie stars Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis as new parents who bring the creepy porcelain plaything seen in last year's haunted house horror "The Conjuring" into their home.
Sony's "The Equalizer," last week's top performer, came in third place in its second weekend with $19 million, bringing its total domestic haul to $64.5 million. The revenge thriller starring Denzel Washington reteams him with director Antoine Fuqua, who helmed 2001's "Training Day," the film that earned Washington an Oscar for best actor.
"Left Behind," the weekend's other big debut, opened in sixth place with $6.8 million. The Rapture-set film starring Nicholas Cage is based on the novel of the same name.
Dergarabedian said overall ticket sales for the weekend box office were $149 million, an 18 percent increase from the same weekend last year.