We’ve never had a situation where an R-rated horror movie’s box office performance can be compared to that of a major superhero film, but “It” has managed to do just that after making a genre record-shattering $123 million opening this past weekend. It’s the third highest opening of the year, and at a $35 million budget, it’s the cheapest movie ever to earn a $100 million-plus opening.
Now the next question is, can the film keep this strong showing going into the coming weekends?
Early signs are already looking good. On Monday, “It” made a whopping $8.8 million at the box office, the most ever on a Monday in September. At $132 million, it is expected to pass “The Green Mile” to take the domestic box office record for any Stephen King adaptation after Tuesday’s numbers are added.
Traditionally, horror movies have a reputation for being front-loaded when it comes to box office performance. Hardcore fans of the genre pack the seats on opening weekend, but after that, there’s little mainstream interest to keep numbers up in the following weeks. One example of this is “Paranormal Activity 3,” which had one of the biggest horror openings ever prior to “It” when it made $52 million in October 2011. That ended up being half of “PA3”‘s total domestic gross, as the following weekend it fell 65.5 percent to $18.1 million.
But the major horror successes of 2017 have been able to take advantage of strategic release dates and built-up audience interest to find longer-lasting box office success, namely, “Get Out.” Having hooked the attention of moviegoers who wouldn’t usually go to a horror film, “Get Out” kept its drop-off below 35 percent through its first four weekends even in a busy March market, starting with a $33.3 million opening, followed by $28.2 million in its second frame. “Get Out” finished its run with $175.4 million, boasting an incredible multiple of 5.26 times what it earned in its opening weekend.
“It” will be aiming for similar longevity, but on a larger scale — much larger than anyone anticipated. By the end of next weekend, “It” should blow by “Get Out”‘s domestic total, enter the top 10 list for 2017, and will soon become the 15th R-Rated film to gross more than $200 million. It’s not expected to face very stiff competition this weekend, as new releases “American Assassin” and “mother!” aren’t projected to make more than $15 million in their respective openings. A drop-off of less than 60 percent will give “It” $50 million, putting it in the neighborhood of the $56 million second-frame total that “Deadpool,” the R-rated movie opening record holder, made last year.
Tougher competition will come next weekend in the form of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” an R-Rated action sequel that is aimed at the 18 to 35 demographic that “It” went after and is projected to make $45 million to $50 million. Then, in October, we will see if “It” will become the Halloween horror film of choice for audiences as it competes for attention against Universal’s “Happy Death Day” and the return of the “Saw” series in Lionsgate’s “Jigsaw.”
And if “It” shows longevity, it will soon be on pace to pass this year’s highest-earning R-Rated film, “Logan,” which made $226 million domestically. If that happens, Hollywood may soon be talking about whether it’s time to start putting more money into horror.