The film industry just let out a collective gasp, but it’s likely one of joy rather than terror, as the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It by Andy Muschietti has smashed every conceivable projection for its opening weekend gross. The film, which was forecasted to make an impressive $70 million (already huge for a horror film in Sept.) only a few weeks ago, blew past every possible roadblock, including national fears over Hurricane Irma, to earn an astounding $123.1 million, according to New Line and Warner Bros.
These numbers aren’t just impressive; they’re in an entirely different universe (a deadlight-filled universe) from any horror opening in history. The $123.1 million figure represents:
1. The largest horror movie opening weekend of all time, more than doubling films such as Hannibal ($58 million) and Paranormal Activity 3 ($53 million).
2. The largest September opening of all time, at 2.5 times the size of the previous record holder, Hotel Transylvania 2, which made $48.5 million in its opening weekend.
3. The biggest opening of all time in the entire Sept.-Oct. corridor, whose previous record holder was Gravity at $55.8 million.
4. The third largest opening weekend of 2017, behind only Beauty and the Beast’s $174.8 million and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s $146.5 million.
These numbers are utterly insane, and prove that it doesn’t matter when in the year a film is released, in terms of generating record grosses—all that matters is that audiences actually want to see it. It also suggests that audiences were indeed pining for a slickly produced theatrical version of one of King’s most popular and enduring novels, which was previously produced as the still well-regarded 1990 TV miniseries with Tim Curry as the murderous clown monster known as Pennywise.
The fact that the film was able to do all this on a $35 million budget, and with no real recognizable stars, is especially incredible. Compare that to Beauty and the Beast, which was rocking a $160 million budget, or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s $200 million budget, and It easily has had the most profitable opening weekend of the year, and its overall gross could be just getting started. If word of mouth is good (and it certainly seems that it is), then IT could have a good chance of coming out of this as the highest grossing horror film of all time.
Studios, take note: This is how you make a film people actually want to see. Not every blockbuster needs to come out in July or August. A tidily made horror movie with an imaginative director, made for $35 million, can take in $123 million in a single weekend in September.