'The Nun II' scares away 'A Haunting in Venice' as spooky season begins at the box office

Warner Bros.' "The Nun II" held onto first place this weekend, while Disney and 20th Century Studios' "A Haunting in Venice" crept into second, signaling the arrival of spooky season at the domestic box office.

"The Nun II" scared up $14.7 million in its sophomore outing for a North American cumulative of $56.5 million, while "A Haunting in Venice" opened to $14.5 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The third installment in actor-director Kenneth Branagh's series of Agatha Christie adaptations matched early box-office projections that ranged from $13 million to $15 million in the United States and Canada.

Read more: Review: With ‘A Haunting in Venice,’ Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie series hits its stride

"A Haunting in Venice" landed in between its predecessors, "Murder on the Orient Express," which kick-started the franchise with $28.7 million in November 2017, and "Death on the Nile," which debuted at $12.9 million in February 2022.

Internationally, the mystery launched at $22.7 million for a worldwide total of $37.2 million, according to studio estimates.

Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office this weekend were Sony Pictures' "The Equalizer 3," which nabbed $7.2 million in its third frame for a North American haul of $73.7 million; Focus Features' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3," which grossed $4.7 million in its second run for a North American cumulative of $18.6 million; and Warner Bros.' "Barbie," which added $4 million in its ninth outing for a North American total of $626.1 million.

Read more: Why Agatha Christie's mousetraps still beguile us, even if the films aren't always killer

Helmed by Branagh, "A Haunting in Venice" sees the filmmaker reprise his role as mustachioed detective Hercule Poirot, back on the case after a chilling seance turns deadly at a Venetian Palazzo. The ensemble cast also includes Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio and Michelle Yeoh.

The PG-13 picture, based on Christie's 1969 novel "Hallowe'en Party," received a solid 79% fresh score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and a B grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

"Branagh’s Poirot … has bared his own physical and psychological scars in this series before," writes Times film critic Justin Chang.

"For the first time, though, his backstory doesn’t feel concocted for effect. Instead, it subtly resonates with a case whose rich human dimensions — deferred dreams, unshakable traumas, grieving parents and children — sound a grim echo of the world beyond the whodunit. For all the creakily derivative supernatural hokum on display, the ghosts that haunt this movie turn out to be all too persuasively real."

Opening in wide release next week is Lionsgate's "Expend4bles," starring Jason Statham, Megan Fox, 50 Cent and Sylvester Stallone.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.