The Curse of La Llorona posted the worst opening weekend in the Conjuring film series, but why did that happen? The franchise began back in 2013 with James Wan's The Conjuring, which proved to be a critical and financial success. Not only did the horror hit spawn a direct sequel, Warner Bros. also forged ahead with a number of spinoffs, blowing The Conjuring open into a shared cinematic universe. While not every installment has been widely acclaimed, each movie proved to be a box office success.
Since its production budget was just $9 million, La Llorona certainly goes down as another fruitful installment, as it's tallied $55.3 million worldwide so far. However, celebrations should be tempered a bit, because the film won the worst Easter weekend in a decade with $26.3 million domestically in its first three days. That figure is also the lowest debut for a Conjuring movie to date. It's true La Llorona is by no means a failure, but it's still worth wondering why it made considerably less than the other entries.
Part of the blame should be placed on the marketing department, as La Llorona's connection to the Conjuring universe was downplayed in advertising. A teaser trailer was released in October 2018, with a full theatrical preview following in February 2019. Both made note of Wan's involvement as a producer, but didn't mention La Llorona was part of a larger franchise. It wasn't until the movie premiered at the SXSW Festival in March that the truth finally came out, which in retrospect seems like a wasted opportunity. The Conjuring is one of the most recognizable names in the genre this decade, so it's definitely possible La Llorona would have benefitted if its ties to the shared universe were more upfront. This is a new golden age for original horror (see: Us), but franchises are still the bread and butter of the film industry. Spinoffs typically need some sort of branding to reach their full commercial potential.
The relation to The Conjuring is doubly important here because La Llorona, based on Mexican folklore, is not as widely-known in other areas of the world. In the case of other Conjuring spinoffs, like Annabelle and The Nun, there was a fair amount of setup done in other films to familiarize general audiences with the concepts and get them invested beforehand. An argument can also be made that perhaps La Llorona might have fared better if the studio used its English translation (The Weeping Woman) as the official title - at least for certain regions. It's not uncommon for films to have different names in different countries in an attempt to raise their level of appeal.
Curse of La Llorona will probably go down as one of the lowest-grossing Conjuring movies overall, but this is by no means a disaster or an immediate franchise killer. All shared universes, even Marvel's, have sub-series that aren't as popular as others, so La Llorona's performance isn't anything abnormal. And, if all breaks the right way, this'll be a fluke for The Conjuring overall. In the summer, Annabelle Comes Home opens, and there's a third installment in the mainline series that's about to commence production. So whichever way one looks at it, The Conjuring is still in excellent shape.
- The Curse of La Llorona (2019) release date: Apr 19, 2019