Last weekend, I wrote about the Labor Day weekend box office, and you could tell by my despondency and annoyance with the lying liars who lied about their box office numbers that I’d really had enough. Thankfully, a clown named Pennywise has come along to bring the box office back to life… and in a massive, unexpected way.
By Kim Hollis
September 10, 2017
After weeks of misery (ha ha, get it?), It has steamrolled through theaters to become the #1 movie in the country. It is the biggest September opener ever. It is the biggest Fall opener ever. It is the biggest horror opener ever. And It is even the second-biggest R-rated opener ever, behind only Deadpool. To say that It is a monster is underselling It. And that’s not just because It is a creepy sewer clown who steals unsuspecting children and terrorizes an entire community. It’s because It has broken a bad box office streak and will become one of the biggest film industry stories of the year.
It got started on Thursday with a gaudy $13.5 million total from its evening sneak previews. Next came Friday, where It earned $51 million. If you remove those Thursday sneaks, that gives us a “true” Friday total of $37.5 million. Then, Saturday came in with $45.7 million, a number that showed some real strength with regard to hold – especially for a film in the horror genre with what could have been presumed to be a fanboy rush. Sunday box office was “just” $20.5 million, which means that the three-day weekend was a ridiculous $117.2 million. That’s the 29th biggest debut of all-time, and beats movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Minions, and Wonder Woman.
So how did It manage such an insane start at the box office? Let’s start with the basics. It is based on an extremely well regarded novel from the horror master Stephen King. Yes, last month’s Dark Tower was also by King and flopped huge, but there are many differences in the situations for the two films.
Let’s start with the fact that The Dark Tower has a more niche appeal. It has a long-term fanbase and a large number of people who watched the original miniseries way, way back in 1990. That series featured Tim Curry as Pennywise, and most people would probably consider it one of his iconic roles (alongside Dr. Frank-N- Furter, of course).
Another phenomenon of Summer 2017 (and all of 2017, really) is that people truly started paying attention to reviews. This wasn’t consistent 100 percent of the time, but by and large, if a highly anticipated movie debuted with a terrible Rotten Tomatoes rating, you could generally count on it to fail. You only need look back to The Dark Tower to see the proof. People who had long been awaiting this series to make it to the big screen abandoned it in droves when reviews were published.
It, on the other hand, is 87 percent fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, and its Cinemascore is a B+ (a pretty solid rating for a horror film, though you usually want to see at least an A-). People could have faith that this scary story would be worth sitting through, and it doesn’t hurt that clowns are naturally scary. Some of the viral marketing for the film included balloons in weird places, and I still actually wonder if the creepy clown phenomenon of 2016 (where clowns were appearing across the country to frighten and alarm the populace) wasn’t an early push to get people interested in this film.
Along with all of the unbelievable records It has achieved, here are some other fun facts to ponder. It has a cast of mostly unknowns. Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård is under makeup as he portrays Pennywise the clown, and he is probably best known for the TV series Hemlock Grove. (He was also in Atomic Blonde earlier this summer.) The main cast is made up of children, with the only real familiar face being that of Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard. So, this wasn’t a film that earned its money on the basis of star power. Not by any means.
Director Andy Muschietti is similarly unknown. He was behind the cameras for the fantastic horror/suspense film Mama, and is also currently directing the pilot for the TV series Locke & Key, based on a graphic novel series written by Joe Hill. If you aren’t familiar with Hill, you should be for oh so many reasons (his books are mostly fantastic), but he’s also the son of one Stephen King. How’s that for keeping things in the family?
A lot of times, horror films don’t have much impact overseas, but It has already earned $62 million internationally. That means the film has a worldwide total of almost $180 million already, and with the word-of-mouth and huge story created by the dynamic box office debut, there’s only going to be more and more box office to come.
Finally, It is another data point in favor of the fact that weather has no real impact on box office. Snowstorms and other types of weather events are often used as excuses for films underperforming, but we have Irma looming over Florida, causing evacuations of all kinds of areas, yet It manages to become the biggest horror debut ever.
There were other movies at the box office, though it’s anticlimactic to talk about them. Second place goes to our other new wide release of the weekend, Home Again. This Reese Witherspoon wish fulfillment rom-com earned $9 million on the weekend and is significant for being the directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Nancy’s daughter. Obviously, the film is hugely in the shadow of It, and will barely be a blip in a couple of weeks. It’ll probably perform just fine on video, though.
Third place goes to our unlikely three-time box office champion, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. It earned $4.9 million, down 54 percent from last weekend’s overinflated number. The Lionsgate release is now up to $64.9 million domestically, and has yet to report any box office from international venues.
Annabelle: Creation, one of the few summer successes this year, is still hanging around in the top five despite being in release for five weeks. The Warner Bros. release (by the way, Warner Bros. is having a pretty nifty few weeks with this film and It), earned $4 million and declined 47 percent from last weekend. Annabelle 2 is just inches away from hitting the $100 million mark domestically, as its current tally sits at $96.3 million. With an overseas total of $184 million, Annabelle: Creation has an amazing worldwide gross of $280 million.
Fifth and sixth place go to a pair of Weinstein Company films. The first of the two is Wind River, which increased its venue count to 2,890 locations and earned $3.2 million. Even with the expansion, that’s still a 49 percent drop from last week, mainly because everyone was lying about their totals. Wind River now has a domestic tally of $25 million. The Weinsteins’ other film is Leap!, the animated movie about a ballerina. It earned $2.5 million and fell 48 percent. The total for North America sits at $15.9 million, while it has earned $80 million internationally.
A couple of pretty decent summer blockbusters occupy our seventh and eighth spots. Spider-Man: Homecoming, now out 10 weeks, takes seventh with $2 million. It declined 45 percent from last weekend, has a domestic total of $327.7 million, and an overseas tally of $495 million. Dunkirk finishes in eighth. Its $1.9 million three-day total represents a drop of 55 percent. $183.1 million domestically will bring it plenty of positive attention during awards season, and its more than $309 million overseas has it very close to the $500 million mark.
We close out the top 10 with Logan Lucky and The Emoji Movie, neither of which has any real similarity to each other. Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky earned $1.8 million, falls 59 percent, and has a running total of $25.2 million. The Emoji Movie barely crossed the million-dollar mark and declined 57 percent. It has earned $82.5 million domestically.
The top 12 this weekend took in a mighty $149.3 million, most of which comes from It, of course. That’s way ahead of last year’s weekend tally of $84.5 million, which occurred when Sully debuted. Next weekend brings All I See Is You, an Open Road Films release that probably won’t do much, American Assassin, an interesting-looking thriller featuring Michael Keaton, and mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s latest mind-bender, which is probably an awards vehicle for star Jennifer Lawrence.