Enter “It,” Warner Bros. and New Line’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, which is expected to scare audiences back into theaters with a record-breaking opening. A $65 million opening is expected from 4,000 locations (3,500 spots for Thursday previews). Since early tracking pegged the movie at a $50 million opening in mid-August, the expected sum has only floated higher — some current tracking indicates an opening as high as $75 million. So all signs point to a major win for the R-rated horror pic, which was made for about an estimated $35 million.
An opening of that magnitude is mostly unprecedented. Take, for example, the record for largest September opening set by “Hotel Transylvania 2” in 2015 with $48.5 million. Or the biggest opening weekend banked by a horror or supernatural film — “Paranormal Activity 3” earned $52.6 million in 2011. The numbers hold up when compared with the largest R-rated movie openings. “Deadpool” changed the game in 2016 with a massive $132.4 million opening, but even with $65 million, “It” would earn its place in the top 10. Fandango reported that fans are already paying up — “It” is the top horror film pre-seller in history.
The movie comes courtesy of Argentine director Andy Muschietti, who is known for the 2013 horror film “Mama.” Bill Skarsgard stars as Pennywise the Clown, which terrorizes young children in Derry, Maine. The rest of the cast includes youngsters Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, and Jackson Robert Scott in supporting roles.
While “It’s” presence looms large, this weekend also offers counterprogramming in the form of Open Road’s “Home Again.” The romantic comedy, which carries a price tag of about $15 million, is expected to make about $10 million from 2,940 locations. Reese Witherspoon stars as a single mother whose life grows more complicated when three young men — played by Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, and Pico Alexander — move in. Hallie Meyers-Shyer directed the feature from her own script, while her mother, Nancy Meyers, served as a producer.
The month of August was depressingly slow for box office receipts, but September appears to showcase unusually strong releases. That’s a change of pace for the month that is traditionally considered a purgatory between splashy summer fare and awards season contenders. After the summer season, the domestic box office is left lagging more than 6% behind for the year. At least this weekend seems it will do its part to get things back on track.