5 Ways to Prep - It: Chapter 2
By George Rose
September 8, 2019
IT: Chapter 2 is finally here and 2019 has its first potential $100+ million debut that isn’t from Disney! Except, wait a second, in the days leading up to release the updating tracking figures suggest closer to $90 million. Great, just great. Even if it does “only” earn $90 million it’ll still be a letdown in my eyes, which is quite sad considering it would still be the second largest horror debut weekend of all time. It will still also open larger than Hobbs & Shaw did in August, so that’s got to be worth bragging about. And it’s still the largest opening weekend of 2019 not released by Disney. Yet somehow, even though big numbers are in store, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around these pre-release expectations.
There’s no way to throw shade at a $90+ million debut in the first month post-Summer. It just confuses me how a story can have two chapters and the audience that showed up for the first wouldn’t show up for the second. I mean if part one sucked then I guess it makes sense but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Did a large portion of the audience see it twice? Maybe, but that really only explains how the final total would be less for Chapter 2. For a sequels opening weekend to earn less than the first film, audiences would have had to dislike what they saw and not desire more. Did Chapter 1’s story feel so complete that people think Chapter 2 is a cash grab and not the ending to Stephen Kong’s original complete story? I’m just so confused.
The theory that usually applies is that a well-received original should be followed up by a larger opening for the sequel. The final number for the second part might be less if, 1) people hate the sequel, or 2) if the people who loved the original and saw it multiple times only see the sequel once. Has the box office landscape really changed so much in the two years since Chapter 1’s release that even time tested theories no longer apply to the few blockbuster releases left? The answer is yes, yes it has.
In two years time, Disney has purchased 20th Century Fox, studios have announced plans for individual streaming services to combat Netflix, and all of Hollywood’s biggest brands are releasing their final chapters in 2019. As I looooove pointing out, Disney releasing Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, Aladdin and Lion King all in the same year was a bad decision. All their biggest eggs in one 2019 basket doesn’t leave much left to look forward to, and if Disney is clearly planning for a box office shift starting in 2020 then we should too. But why should we wait?
We’re not new! We are movies fans and we see the light at the end of the tunnel. And no, it’s not the light to heaven. It’s fire. That’s fire you see. That’s the Hollywood sign on fire and we’re all going to hell. By hell I mean our couches, which seems like hell to me because I can’t imagine a world where the theater experience ends in exchange for lonely home viewing. I can’t and I won’t, but that’s where we’re heading and audiences have caught on. I’m hearing more and more how people are even cutting their cable packages in exchange for just internet service and a handful of streaming apps. And even though studios weren’t wrong to think audiences would be too stupid to notice (humans aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed), they ended up being wrong. We might be savage beasts but even an animal can smell danger a mile away, and we smell trouble. It’s not in human nature to see danger and run towards it, so I’m not surprised that audiences are bailing on the box office before Hollywood bails on us first.
If you need proof, here are a few examples in 2019 of how the biggest brands not owned by Disney have failed big time: LEGO Movie, X-Men, Men in Black, Pokemon, Godzilla, Hobbs and Shaw, and so many more. Sure, some of these titles have topped $100 million but not a single non-Disney movie (except Sony’s MCU Spider-Man, which I count as Disney) has topped $200 million yet this year, and any of those brands I just listed would have had a great shot at that benchmark just a few years ago. Despite all this horrible news, none of these brands will be disappearing anytime soon. The Hollywood landscape is changing but studios know a good brand when they see it and it’s not a question if there will be new entries in these series; the question is, how will we see it?
We’ll watch them as bingeable miniseries at home, we’ll play their video games and maybe one day we can see these IPs in VR, and who wouldn’t want to run around with the X-Men in virtual reality?! I would! So if Hollywood isn’t really ending but just evolving into something new, then what’s really the problem we’re all whining about? THE NUMBERS! That’s what. If we as analysts can’t discuss movies relative to the dollars and cents that they make, how will we define or clarify their levels of success compared to one another? Page views? Button clicks? By trusting the analytics revealed to us by each streaming service? I mean, if there’s not numbers to talk about then what’s left to justify calling ourselves analysts? If there aren’t numbers to prove our statements, do we just become hecklers? AM I A FKING HECKLER NOW?! Ugh, I can’t even.
I know I’ve just gone way off the rails but these are concerns I’m having, and I’m just pissed that as quickly as we got our first ever $100+ million horror debut is as quickly as it was taken away. The current second largest horror opening is 2018’s Halloween with $76 million, which it was “only” able to turn into a $159 million total. That, to me, means if IT: Chapter 2 earns $90 million or less, there’s a chance it doesn’t top $200 million in total. That means Chapter 1’s glorious $123 million debut and $327 million total are flukes, false promises that the box office was flourishing as even underperforming genres like horror can release event level blockbuster numbers. That means the second part to horror’s all time greatest hit becomes just another sub-$200 million statistic in Hollywood’s final bow in 2019. The end isn’t coming, friends. It’s here. It’s now. And all the upcoming non-Disney blockbuster hopefuls of 2019 (Joker, Terminator, Charlie’s Angels, Jumanji, etc) should be shaking in their sub-$200 million boots.
But I suppose for now I should stick to the topic originally in hand and that’s the release of IT: Chapter 2. It’s going to be big, it’s going to be scary, and it’s going to be one of the biggest non-Disney releases of the year. By today’s standards we have a giant hit on our hands and I can’t wait to see it. Lather on that clown makeup and suck the helium from your big red balloons, friends, because trick or treating comes early with 5 Ways to Prep for IT: Chapter 2!!!
1) IT (2019)
This is the biggest horror movie ever we’re talking about so you should definitely be familiar with the premise by now. If not, here’s a quick recap: a shapeshifting clown named Pennywise surfaces every 27 years in the quiet town of Derry and murders innocent children. The story focuses on a group of kids that are part of a Losers Club, the first in all the years Pennywise has been around to fight back and subdue the creature. The kids promise to return in 27 years to kill the threat for good if it does in fact reappear. It blew away expectations by debuting with $123 million (#1 for horror, #3 for R-rated) and earning $327 million in total. Critics and audiences alike enjoyed this frightening, endearing and complex tale with many assuming the conclusion in Chapter 2 would likely enjoy a similar ride to success. Oh, silly us.
2) IT: MINISERIES PART 2 (1990)
Not only is IT based off of a Stephen King novel but it was already adapted into a two-part miniseries for television 27 years before the movie version in 2017. What a clever little release strategy, right? Anyway, the TV version did things differently by having the children and adult versions of the story interconnected during both halves, which the film version did not do. They are saving the adults for Chapter 2, although there will still be flashbacks to childhood. Even though the structures are different, the final battle with the adults takes place during the second half of the miniseries so that’s what we’ll want to focus on when comparing both Part 2’s.
The television version was obviously limited by the rating restrictions that come with that medium and a more modest budget. Skip forward 27 years and we now have a hard R-rating and the financial means afforded to the sequel of a global phenomenon. Since the TV version was filmed as one, the cast was predetermined before the cameras rolled. The film version was able to leverage the success of the first to attract A-list names like James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader so that already helps kick the sequel up a notch. The bigger budget will help catapult the special effects needed to make IT’s true form (definitely not a clown) into a monster worthy of the big screen experience. All of this is known, but one has to wonder how close to the novel the movie will go.
The first part ignored the more complicated parts of the novel, like the Ritual of Chud that allows people to enter a Macroverse to battle IT in the only place he can actually be killed, but WATCH OUT because there’s also a universe-vomiting turtle named Mataurin lurking there… sooo, yeah, let this be the PSA that stops kids from doing cocaine at Stephen King’s level. It’s really no surprise the TV series left this out and the same goes for Chapter 1 of the movies. Don’t even get me started on the prepubescent gangbang of the only girl in the Losers Club, or how a publisher allowed King to include that, but I digress. It’s always nice to see how reboots and remakes update old material, and since most people don’t read anymore I imagine watching the old miniseries is your best bet for story comparisons.
3) THE CONJURING 2 (2016)
So few horror movies have opened above the $40 million mark, let alone $100 million, and none above IT’s $123 million debut. What makes The Conjuring a good comp is that it also only has two entries in the main series (plus a few spin-offs), both were once considered huge horror opening weekends at the time, and Conjuring also saw a decline for the second entry despite a well-reviewed first entry. Conjuring 1 started with $42 million and earned $137 million. Conjuring 2 started with $40 million (-2.4%) and earned $102 million (-25.5%). If the same declines did their magic to IT, then Chapter 2 can expect a $120 million debut and a $244 million total. Given pre-release data, that debut might be too high but a similar final total might be in store. Let’s see what other comps we can find.
4) DEADPOOL 2 (2018)
Maybe it’s not horror films we should be comparing IT to. Maybe we should find another massive R-rated debut with only one sequel, maybe a character that is based off of literature, maybe released in the same few years of the changing Hollywood landscape, maybe he’s already also been adapted for the screen in a lower quality film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, anyone?), maybe it will also have one of the three biggest R-rated debuts ever, and maybe we’ll be lucky and it will also have the sequel earning less when most people expected more. Oh, wait, I think I found one!
Deadpool was released in 2016 and proved that an R-rated comic book adaptation could blow past a $100 million debut, something nobody expected from horror either. Deadpool earned $132 on opening weekend and $363 million in total. Deadpool 2 opened with $126 million (-4.5%) and earned $325 million (-10.5%). If IT follows suit, Chapter 2 will debut to $117 million and earn $293 million. At this point, these numbers seem like the best case scenario. Unfortunately, I think there’s one final comp to find that may be better suited for IT’s concluding chapter, especially given what last minute data suggests and the drop in critical reception. That’s rights, as of this portion of the articles writing, reviews are in and Chapter 2’s 68% is enough less than Chapter 1’s 86% to raise some concerns. We definitely need a better comp.
5) JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018)
If only there was another sequel to a semi-reboot of a classic series that draws inspiration from Steven Spielberg’s style of storytelling, one that features monsters that are millions of years old, one that is a film premise originally born in literature, one that is equal parts horror and action and comedy, one where the sequel is more clearly lower in quality than the first part (Conjuring 2 and Deadpool 2 barely dropped below their predecessors scores on Rotten Tomatoes), and one that also dealt with blockbuster numbers beyond our wildest imaginations. Oh wait, I think I found it again! This time, we’re talking Jurassic World. Granted, Fallen Kingdom isn’t the concluding chapter to the series but I think we have a comp close enough that’s worth exploring. Jurassic World 1 debuted to $209 million and earned $652 million. Jurassic World 2 dropped in quality, debuted to $148 million (-29.2%) and earned $418 million (-35.9%). If IT goes the way of its prehistoric brethren, it will debut with $87 million and earn $210 million.
So this at least gives hope that if Chapter 2 does open with $90 million as expected just before its release that it can still cross the $200 million mark in the end. I know these are still fantastic numbers “for a horror movie” but this comp is troubling. If this happens, then Hollywood really is its own Fallen Kingdom and the box office evolution is further along than anyone imagined. It’s going to take a lot more than Rituals of Chüd and puking turtles to save this dire situation. If Chapter 2 doesn’t top $250 million in the end, than I’d say the only chance the rest of 2019 has outside of Disney is Jumanji and maybe even then lightning won’t strike twice. The end is nigh, friends, and while I used to complain about that prospect I’m actually starting to get a lit title curious (if not excited) for whatever evolution has in store for us next.