‘It’: Why a Creepy Clown Looks Like a Savior for the 2017 Box Office

After the drought of summer box office, “It” is a monsoon. It doubled already-high advance predictions, but most of all, one well-received horror film gives hope that a bad year could recover.

Records, even adjusted ones, get broken sometime. But to this degree is almost unheard of. Previously, the biggest September opening in adjusted grosses was “Rush Hour” in 1998 ($62 million). The $123 million estimate essentially doubled that number — and likely would have been about around $7 million-$8 million more, had Florida theaters not been closed.

This above-and-beyond performance happened on the traditionally comatose weekend after Labor Day. Last year, Warners took a similar risk in releasing Clint Eastwood’s “Sully,” a rare “A” title for the post-Labor Day weekend, and set a record (adjusted) at $35 million. This is 250 percent bigger.

“It”

Its success might be isolated. The factors in its favor include the appeal of a creepy-clown story; a lack of recent movies that appeal to mainstream moviegoers (particularly younger and minority audiences, who represent a much larger share of the ticket buying population); and audiences who loved the film as much as critics.

The result is a total gross nearly $60 million better than a year ago. The full week’s uptick could be close to $90 million. If we’re to make up for this weak summer, each week needs to best 2016 by a $30 million average. “It” will help reduce that shortfall significantly.

Screenshot/Open Road Films

Still, it’s hard to overplay its performance. The total gross of everything else playing this weekend was only $40 million. Had this done $60 million as expected, the weekend would have been no better than last year. “Home Again” (Open Road), a romantic comedy with Reese Witherspoon that opened wide, managed only $9 million. No other film grossed even $5 million, with the bulk of them holdovers.

This is the second-biggest opening ever for a film anticipated as a standalone enterprise. Among franchise starters (excluding Marvel and D.C. Universe films that were offshoots of established worlds), it is third best. “Beauty and the Beast” earlier this year was bigger, as was the first “Hunger Games” film. But that’s the company it is in.

The Top Ten

1. It (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 71

$117,150,000 in 4,103 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $28,552; Cumulative: $117,150,000

2. Home Again (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 43

$9,028,000 in 2,940 theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $9,028,000

3. Hitman’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$4,850,000 (-54%) in 3,332 theaters (-48); PTA: $1,460; Cumulative: $64,897,000

4. Annabelle: Creation (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$4,000,000 (-47%) in 3,033  theaters (-355); PTA: $1,332; Cumulative: $96,267,000

5. Wind River (Weinstein) Week 6; Last weekend #3

$3,210,000 (-48%) in 2,890 theaters (+288); PTA: $1,111; Cumulative: $25,002,000

6. Leap! (Weinstein) Week; Last weekend #4

$2,500,000 (-48%) in 2,691 theaters (-14); PTA: $929; Cumulative: $15,875,000

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony) Week; Last weekend #7

$2,015,000 (-45%) in 1,657 theaters (-379); PTA: $1,216; Cumulative: $327,703,000

8. Dunkirk (Warner Bros.) Week 8; Last weekend #6

$1,950,000 (-55%) in 2,110 theaters (-642); PTA: $924; Cumulative: $183,210,000

9. Logan Lucky (Bleecker Street) Week; Last weekend #5

$1,826,000 (59%) in 2,167 theaters (-808); PTA: $843; Cumulative: $25,229,000

10. The Emoji Movie (Sony) Week; Last weekend #9

$1,060,000 (-57%) in 1,450 theaters (-658); PTA: $731; Cumulative: $82,517,000