Can “It” float again? Warner Bros. is hoping the audience’s penchant for Pennywise, the same enthusiasm that turned Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaptation into a box office smash, will translate into scary-good ticket sales for “It: Chapter Two.”
The follow-up arrives in theaters this weekend with outsized expectations, and not just because the first film set a new genre record to the tune of $700 million globally. The Losers’ Club is returning to the big screen on the heels of a particularly rough summer for Warner Bros. “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” delivered modest returns, but those were the lone (and dim) bright spots. A crop of misses that includes “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Shaft,” the Springsteen-inspired “Blinded by the Light” and Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish’s heist drama “The Kitchen” each sputtered in spectacular fashion. It was a bloodbath that would have been the envy of Pennywise.
With that said, the pressure is on for “It: Chapter Two” to kick off Warner Bros.’ fall with a much needed win. Estimates show the R-rated horror film could debut with $85 million to $90 million from 4,200 North American locations, while some industry watchers predict that number could balloon to $100 million.
Even if “It: Chapter Two” doesn’t match the surprisingly strong $123 million start of its predecessor, it will be in rarified company for its genre. “Halloween,” which scored with $76 million last year, ranks as the second-biggest launch for a horror movie behind only “It.”
“We’re still talking elite level horror opening, and an opening Warner Bros. hasn’t seen in a long time,” said Jeff Bock, a media analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “I think people are ramped up to see it. It can work, even if it’s not as big of an opening as the first.”
Timing should certainly work in the film’s favor. As the lone nationwide release this weekend, “It: Chapter Two” will be devoid of any new competition. It’s also been weeks since the latest blockbuster, and the box office is ripe for a win.
“This is the perfect storm,” Bock said. “We haven’t had a huge hit in the marketplace for over a month. This is one of those event movies, and we haven’t seen one of those since July.”
After the surprise success of the original — and a starry new cast that includes the likes of Bill Hader, James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain — anticipation has been expectedly high. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge attests the film delivers on the thrills, calling it “an elaborate fun-house horror movie that […] scares steadily enough to excuse its been-there story and self-important 169-minute running time.” And while “It: Chapter Two” clocks in at a butt-numbing two-hours and 50-minutes, “Avengers: Endgame” proved a lengthy runtime won’t deter audiences from seeing a movie. Instead, the film will rely on word of mouth to carry enthusiasm through September.
Based on the second half of Stephen King’s doorstop of a novel, “It: Chapter Two” picks up 27 years after the Losers’ Club thought they rid their small town of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). When the sewer-dwelling, shapeshifting clown resurfaces, the unlikely heroes return to their hometown of Derry, Maine to get rid of the demon once and for all.
If all goes to plan, the rest of 2019 should be favorable for Warner Bros. and could help offset damages from summer. Following “It: Chapter Two,” the studio is unveiling “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the notorious villain that’s sure to galvanize comic-book enthusiasts. Send in the clowns!