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‘It Chapter Two’ Scares Away Rivals and Chews Up the Weekend Box Office

When competition stays away, the new wide opener cleans up, and the holdovers hang in a little longer.

"It Chapter Two"

“It Chapter Two”

Warner Bros.

“It Chapter Two” (Warner Bros.) and its terrific $91 million gross deserves attention on multiple levels. Clearly, moviegoers are franchise-crazy, no matter what the time of year, even during the post-Labor Day box-office doldrums. Without sequels theaters would wither away.

The “It Chapter Two” gross represented two thirds of all tickets sold this weekend in the U.S. and Canada. That’s better than most top Marvel movies achieve. That’s because Warners staked out the date far in advance and scared the competition away.

“It Chapter Two” was the sole studio wide release– the 12th time in 36 weekends this year that only one (or in one case no) wide-release title debuted. When the anticipated franchise claims the date, the other movies get out of the way.

That of course makes the new film even bigger, and in turn reinforces the idea that the best strategy is to make and market familiar, branded titles. This weekend will show an uptick of about $15 million over last year (a little over $135 million), with the full week result ahead cutting the deficit from last year somewhat over $20 million. Year to date is now off about $20 million, just over 6%. But it will take an average improvement of $35 million a week to catch up. “Joker” (even more with its shocking Venice jury win) is one film that might help cut the gap. It too will open against no other new release. Whatever the 2019 shortfall is, despite the huge number of massive hits, the difference will likely come from the lack of competitive films on those weeks. And their absence is multiplied by not adding subsequent week grosses.

“It Chapter Two”

Brooke Palmer

Unlike some recent horror hits, the new “It” didn’t come cheap, with a budget estimated as high as $80 million. That’s more than double the original two years ago (the same weekend). The first Stephen King novel adaptation opened to just under $125 million, a game changer for September. The sequel is the second biggest ever (both by a substantial margin, including adjusting totals to current ticket prices).

Notably, “It Chapter Two” landed a B+ Cinemascore, much better than most horror films (and the same as the first). That’s impressive and unusual, along with its running time of 169 minutes, eight more than “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Horror films tend to be on the shorter side, 90 minutes to at most two hours. Also, and this isn’t typical for a sequel, the second full day fall of only 10% is also above average.

Another record that holds unadjusted – the second best horror opening ever. With all the justified acclaim for Blumhouse Productions and their very effective (and creative) operation, this shows that New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. is very much in the game.

Holdovers

The third entry in the Gerald Butler “Fallen” series continues to impress. With a post-holiday (and thus typically likely to be steeper) 49% drop, this sequel now has hit $53 million with the certainty it will surpass “London Has Fallen” as second best in the series. That’s unexpected, and further grist for the argument to stick with the familiar.

This weekend’s Top Ten will likely shift rankings on Monday because the numbers are so close: “Overcome” and “Hobbs & Shaw” are only $30,000 apart, while the five titles below them are separated by only $121,000 (one margin is only $1,400).

Two niche titles are impressive: Sony’s faith-based $5-million “Overcomer” dropped only 34%, grossing  $25 million so far with a small marketing budget. Targeted to Middle America  “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (Roadside Attraction), with a small uptick in theaters at only 1,310 theaters held even better with only a 24% fall. It has passed $12 million and stands a chance at substantial growth.

good boys

Good Boys

Universal

Everything else in the Top 10 (or 11) benefited from only one new film opening by showing more modest drops. Three years ago, three new films opened, and the holdovers all dropped 42-55%. This year, only the two other decent-performing horror films, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (Lionsggate) and “Ready or Not” (Fox Searchlight) fell over 50%.

“Good Boys” at #3 continues its sleeper success, with $80 million or better expected with a $20 million budget. Universal continues to find money with originals at a lower budget, with this comedy likely to spark some new life on what has become an endangered genre. Next weekends “Hustlers” and its anticipated decent opening should help continue the rebound.

The Top Ten

1. It Chapter Two (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $70 million

$91,000,000 in 4,570 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $19,912; Cumulative: $91,000,000

2. Angel Has Fallen (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$6,000,000 (-49%) in 3,229 theaters (-107); PTA: $1,858; Cumulative: $53,461,000

3. Good Boys (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$5,390,000 (-43%) in 3,193 theaters (-265); PTA: $1,688; Cumulative: $66,850,000

4. The Lion King (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #3

$4,193,000 (-39%) in 2,610 theaters (-580); PTA: $1,607; Cumulative: $529,106,000

5. Overcomer (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$3,750,000 (-34%) in 2,153 theaters (+326); PTA: $1,742; Cumulative: $24,706,000

6. Hobbs & Shaw (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #4

$3,720,000 (-42%) in 2,299 theaters (-673); PTA: $1,618; Cumulative: $164,252,000

7. The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 5; Last weekend #12

$2,276,000 (-25%) in 1,310 theaters (+61); PTA: $1,738; Cumulative: $12,283,000

8. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #7

$2,275,000 (-54%) in 2,101 theaters (-646); PTA: $1,083; Cumulative: $62,101,000

9. Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$2,229,000 (-62%) in 2,350 theaters (-607); PTA: $949; Cumulative: $25,631,000

10. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Paramount) Week 7; Last weekend #11

$2,170,000 (-47%) in 1,788 theaters (-689); PTA: $1,214; Cumulative: $54,159,000

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