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Box office report: 'Gone Girl', 'Annabelle' shatter expectations

Gone Girl and Annabelle ruled the box office this weekend with stunning debuts. David Fincher’s critically adored adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller earned an estimated $38 million from 3,014 screens for Fox (a career high for Fincher), while Warner Bros./New Line’s Annabelle, a spinoff of last year’s horror hit The Conjuring, took in an impressive $37.2 million from 3,185 screens. Studios and analysts had expected both to open in the mid $20 million range.

It’s striking that both were slapped with underwhelming B CinemaScores, suggesting that, though audiences turned out in droves for both R-rated pics, neither really lived up to expectations. Also, while the weekend earnings are quite similar, and could very well shift slightly by the time Monday actuals come in, these are two very different kinds of successes.

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Box office update: 'Annabelle' sneaks ahead of 'Gone Girl'

Annabelle and Gone Girl will exceed expectations as both head for a possible $30+ million showing this weekend.

Though that terrifying doll from The Conjuring took first place on Friday with an estimated $15.5 million, it’s likely that David Fincher’s well-regarded adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller will inch ahead when the weekend totals are tallied. Poorly reviewed horror movies do not age well, even across a single weekend. Interestingly, audiences gave both Annabelle and Gone Girl a B CinemaScore, suggesting that neither lived up to their expectations.

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Box office preview: Will 'Gone Girl' triumph over 'Annabelle'?

It’s a battle of the R-rated thrillers at the box office this week, and though both Gone Girl and Annabelle are tracking similarly, it looks like David Fincher’s literary adaptation may have an edge in both the short and long term.

The Christian-themed action pic Left Behind also opens in under 2,000 theaters, and, as with most faith-based releases, its success or failure is somewhat of a wildcard. Industry tracking can never seem to get a solid handle on the Christian market.

Here’s how things might play out.

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Satan has an opinion on Nicolas Cage's 'Left Behind,' apparently

From what’s been revealed thus far, Left Behind appears to have two key qualities of a classic Nicolas Cage film: All the dialogue is either whispered or screamed, and everything in the movie is on fire. But in case that wasn’t enough to attract audiences, the film’s promotional campaign has enlisted the help of the prince of evil whose entire world is on fire—Satan.

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'Left Behind' trailer: Nicolas Cage faces the Rapture -- VIDEO

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As if we needed another movie to make us scared of flying: In the new trailer for Left Behind, passengers mysteriously disappear mid-flight as the pilot struggles to land. At least he isn’t wasted?

Left Behind, starring Nicolas Cage, is based on the bestselling book series about the chaos that erupts when the Rapture comes — and, without warning, people start to disappear . Judging by the trailer, Cage didn’t make Jesus’s shortlist. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: 'Nasty Baby' for Kristen Wiig?; Plus, 'True Blood' actor cast as father in 'The Fault in Our Stars,' more

• Kristen Wiig is reportedly in early talks to join Nasty Baby, a Brooklyn drama from Crystal Fairy director Sebastian Silva. The story follows a gay couple played by Silva and Tunde Adebimpe (Rachel Getting Married) who are trying to have a kid. Their friend Anna (Wiig, potentially) would carry the baby. The Bridesmaids star can be seen next in Anchorman: The Legend Continues (out Dec. 20) and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (out Dec. 25).  [The Wrap]

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Casting Net: Maggie Gyllenhaal joins Michael Fassbender's band in 'Frank.' Plus: Ashley Tisdale, Stephen Lang, Vinnie Jones

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s been a quiet week in Hollywood, so here’s the top casting news of the last few days:

• Maggie Gyllenhaal will star opposite Michael Fassbender in Frank, an indie comedy about a wild band lead by the titular character (Fassbender) and his fearsome right-hand woman (Gyllenhaal), as seen through the eyes of the group’s newest addition (Domhnall GleesonAnna Karenina). Scoot McNairy (Argo), and Jack White drummer Carla Aza costar. Leonard Abrahamson (Adam & Paul) is directing from a script by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare At Goats). [THR]

• Ashley Tisdale will play Nicolas Cage‘s daughter in Left Behind, a remake of the popular faith-based novel series about what happens after the Rapture removes all Christians from the Earth. Longtime stunt coordinator and second unit director Vic Armstrong (ThorI Am Legend) will direct. [Deadline]

• Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand) have signed up for The 34th Battalion, an Australian production about an Aussie army unit during World War I. Luke HemsworthEmilie de Ravin (Lost), and Charles Mesure (Desperate Housewives) costar. First-time director Luke Sparke penned the script with his father, Ian Sparke. [Deadline]

Read more:
Casting Net: Ricky Gervais in talks to star in ‘The Muppets’ sequel. Plus: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Eddie Redmayne, Berenice Bejo
Casting Net: Mireille Enos, Scott Speedman sign on for ‘Queen of the Night.’ Plus: Jon Bernthal to play Robert De Niro’s son
Casting Net: Penn Badgley signs on for drama ‘Parts Per Billion.’ Plus: Michael Shannon, Samantha Morton, Scott Bakula

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