The two-month domestic box office drought has ended emphatically with New Line’s horror-thriller “It” heading for a massive opening weekend of an estimated $103 million at 4,103 North American sites.
It’s the biggest domestic launch since “Spider-Man: Homecoming” opened with $117 million on July 7-9 and the fifth best launch weekend of 2017 after “Beauty and the Beast,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Wonder Woman.”
Based on the 1986 Stephen King horror novel, “It” is attracting moviegoers in numbers far above earlier forecasts, which were in the $65 million to $75 million range. The R-rated title, which focuses on a group of adolescent friends battling a small town’s demon, is the 47th movie to open above $100 million domestically.
“It” wound up with $51 million on Friday, which included a stellar $13.5 million from Thursday night previews — the third-largest preview number for 2017, trailing only Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Hurricane Irma will hold down moviegoing in the Southeast this weekend with the massive storm expected to hit Florida and Georgia late Saturday. Irma could dent weekend attendance by as much as 5%.
But the weekend should be the first in two months to wind up above the comparable 2016 frame, which saw “Sully” open with $35 million. The North American summer box office plunged 14.6% to $3.8 billion, the lowest total since 2006, according to comScore.
Open Road’s romantic comedy “Home Again,” starring Reese Witherspoon, was heading for a distant second place in line with expectations with $8.6 million at 2,940 sites.
PostTrak data from comScore showed strong audience reaction to “It” previews, with 48% calling the movie “excellent” and another 38% rating it “very good.” Made for about $35 million, “It” stars Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown Pennywise along with Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jaeden Lieberher, and Jackson Robert Scott.
“It” has plenty of critical support with an 88% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by Andy Muschietti, “It” will smash the record for largest September opening set by “Hotel Transylvania 2” in 2015 with $48.5 million, along with the mark for biggest opening weekend by a horror or supernatural film, held by 2011’s “Paranormal Activity 3” with $52.6 million. New Line is already working on the second part of the story with Gary Dauberman officially hired to script and Muschietti expected to return.
Lionsgate’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which has won the last three weekends, will likely lead the rest of the pack in third with around $4 million. The action-comedy has generated $59 million in its first three weeks.