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‘Annabelle: Creation’ Proves ‘The Conjuring’ Universe Movies Actually Work

James Wan weighs in on the future of the small (but mighty) horror franchise that has become a reliable hit-maker with all signs pointing toward expansion.

With cinematic universes multiplying rapidly in Hollywood the last couple of years, it’s clear that minting a garden-variety franchise simply isn’t enough anymore. Now you need not just sequels but prequels and spin-offs and sequels to said spin-offs, all painstakingly mapped out ahead of time so as to remain a cohesive, interlinked cinematic world. While Marvel Studios is the gold standard, not every universe has had so few bumps in the road. In addition to Marvel and DC, Disney has Star Wars, Universal has its (admittedly struggling) Dark Universe and now Warner Bros./New Line has The Conjuring. While the latter universe is the latest to bill itself as such (namely in the trailers for this weekend’s Annabelle: Creation), The Conjuring and Conjuring 2 director James Wan has had world-building in mind from the start.

“Very early on, I wanted to call the Conjuring films The Warren Files,” says Wan, who chatted with Heat Vision while en route to the Australia set of Aquaman. “And so that was going to be a more encompassing sort of umbrella name for this whole world. We didn’t end up going with that title, obviously, but I guess that spirit has always sort of lingered around.”

The spirit has so far been with Wan and his creative partners. In addition to the first two blockbuster Conjuring films, the 2014 spinoff Annabelle became a massively profitable hit ($256 million worldwide on a $6.5 million budget) and Annabelle: Creation (actually a prequel to the first movie) is primed to do similarly strong business. Wan and the studio are so confident in their growing universe that there are several projects in the pipeline beyond that, including Conjuring spinoffs The Nun and The Crooked Man (the former directed by Corin Hardy) and The Conjuring 3, which Wan says he will most likely not direct owing to his…

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