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Could ‘It’ Float a Franchise? Pennywise Looks Like a Smart Investment

Box office analysts say there’s enough material for a Pennywise universe

There were always plans for the new film “It” to get a sequel — the Stephen King adaptation tells only the first half of the story of seven kids from Derry, Maine, who do battle with the dancing clown Pennywise. 

But with “It” far surpassing box-office expectations, analysts are already whispering one of Hollywood’s most-beloved words: Franchise. King’s 1986 novel “It” weighs in at more than 1,100 pages, and has already inspired a 1990 TV miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. The novel may have enough material to inspire more adaptations — and not just on the big screen.

One question mark is the upcoming Hulu series “Castle Rock,” whose cast includes Bill Skarsgård — the actor who plays the new Pennywise. Asked if he might pop up as Pennywise, Warner Bros TV, the studio behind the show, said Skarsgård will play a young man with an unusual legal problem. But corporate synergy could allow for at least the possibility of a Pennywise appearance, since Warner Bros. is distributing “It” for New Line.

According to an individual with inside knowledge of the movie, there has been no talk of extending the current “It” beyond a single sequel. But there should be, says Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations.

“They are going to want to explore the possibilities as soon as the movie opens to double its budget,” Bock told TheWrap. “The fact that the first cost $35 million and is going to double that just on opening weekend… it proves that horror is still the best genre in the business.”

Horror films are notorious for returning to the well again and again via origin stories, returns from the dead, and spinoffs. And Pennywise literally springs from a well.

“If you think of the way that universes work, certainly it has enough going for it in terms of the main characters and then of course tangential and prequel style storylines, or the Pennywise origin story,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at comScore, told TheWrap.

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He pointed to “The Conjuring” universe — which includes the evil doll spinoff “Annabelle” — as a possible model.

“There is enough confidence in this movie itself, and that’s why the idea of a franchise strategy or spinoff strategy going forward, is natural for them to look at,” Dergarabedian said. “The Pennywise character is so compelling that when he’s not on screen, you are always wondering where he is and when he is going to show up. … Bill Skarsgard is incredible and eerily charismatic, scary and repulsive at the same time. People love that.”

Horror films are notorious for returning to the well again and again via origin stories, returns from the dead, and spinoffs. And Pennywise literally springs from a well.

Turning “It” into a franchise could also provide an ongoing revenue stream from home video after the film leaves theaters.

“Horror movies are the best movies to see in the theater because of the communal electricity when there are 100 people in the theater. But once they hit the small screen, it’s also great to watch the movie alone,” Dergarabedian said. “Horror movies are the genre that best can exploit both big and small screen equally.”

Hulu likely had this in mind when signing off on “Castle Rock.” While details about the new show are being kept under wraps, we know that Scott Glenn will play Alan Pangborn, a character featured in King’s novels “The Dark Half” and “Needful Things” and the novella “The Sun Dog.”

“Castle Rock” also features other former King players, including original “Carrie” Sissy Spacek. And then there’s the Skarsgård factor.

In literature, “It” is already part of a shared universe, linked by shared locations and character references to other Stephen King works like “The Stand,” “Salem’s Lot” and his epic “Dark Tower” series. The trailer for the recent film adaptation of “The Dark Tower” had Easter-egg nods to “It,” “The Shining” and “Shawshank Redemption.”

But first things first: “It” Chapter 2. Gary Dauberman, one of the screenwriters on “It,” has closed a deal to pen part two. Producers Barbara Muschietti, Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg, along with director Andy Muschietti are expected to return.