This past weekend, the latest film in The Conjuring Universe, The Nun, held Mass at the box office to the tune of $53.5 million. This fantastic performance was the best of any film in The Conjuring franchise and the second-best September opening ever. The Nun has earned $162 million worldwide through five days in release. This financial success stands in stark contrast to the film's critical performance, which is not so glowing, as evidenced by the 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. So how did The Nun overcome the reviews to become a hit? Mexican and Latino moviegoers came out in droves for the horror film.
As reported by The Wrap, Warner Bros. and comScore data shows that 36% of the domestic audience for The Nun on opening weekend was Latino. For comparison to see what a turnout that is, only 17% of the audience was Latino for The Conjuring. For the last film in this universe, Annabelle: Creation, 26% of the audience was Latino. So that is a double-digit jump to over a third of the audience just from last year's Conjuring Universe entry. Also of note is that The Nun did particularly well in Mexico, performing better there than any other foreign market to the tune of $10.7 million.
As to why Latinos really showed up for this movie, there are a couple of possible factors. Although the star of the trailers has really been the nun herself, this film does feature Mexican actor Demián Bichir in a lead role opposite Taissa Farmiga. So that certainly should have increased the interest for the film in his native country. The other major component is that religion and religious imagery are obviously a prominent part of The Nun and have played a role in The Conjuring Universe since the beginning. That religious element could have been a strong draw for Latinos and Mexicans, where Catholicism is a big part of the culture. Horror films in general perform well with Latinos, and Warner Bros. and New Line noticed this with past Conjuring films, so they targeted their marketing to capitalize on this, focusing on states with large Latino populations.
Horror films usually seem to have greater immunity to bad reviews than other genres, so it's hard to say how many people might have been turned off by the negative notices for The Nun. But despite it having the worst Rotten Tomatoes score of any film in the franchise, Warner Bros and New Line knew their audience, and that audience really showed up for this film, helping it score a record opening for The Conjuring Universe. The fact that The Nun is a spinoff of a popular character from an existing film in a cinematic universe also had to play a role, and it will be interesting to follow the box offices of these films as this universe grows.