Powered by strong reviews, an established fan base and intense conversation on social media platforms, “Gone Girl” generated an estimated $38 million at North American theaters over the weekend, a huge result for an R-rated drama. “Gone Girl,” which cost 20th Century Fox and New Regency about $60 million to make, was directed by David Fincher from a screenplay adapted by Gillian Flynn from her best-selling book; Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star.

 

The No. 2 ticket seller over the weekend was also bigger than expected: “Annabelle,” a horror prequel that cost New Line, a division of Warner Bros., about $6.5 million to make, took in about $37.2 million, according to Rentrak, which compiles box-office data. “Annabelle” received poor reviews, making it less likely than “Gone Girl” to perform well in the weeks ahead, but the movie is an important win for a struggling Warner nonetheless. “The Equalizer” (Sony) was a sturdy third in its second weekend, selling an estimated $19 million in tickets, for a new domestic total of $64.5 million.

 

The weekend did bring one notable letdown: The unfortunately titled “Left Behind” (Freestyle Releasing), a PG-13 thriller starring Nicolas Cage and costing an estimated $15 million to make, took in $6.9 million, for sixth place. Even so, returns for “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” were robust enough to vanquish concerns, at least temporarily, about a weak summer and September. Rentrak estimated overall ticket sales for the weekend to total $149 million, an 18 percent increase from the same weekend last year.