A new adaptation of Stephen King’s It broke box office records over the weekend, as the film about a nightmarish clown became the latest horror movie to bolster what’s been an otherwise lackluster year at the box office for Hollywood.
North American ticket sales are down almost 6% so far this year compared to 2016, according to Box Office Mojo, and Hollywood is coming off one of its worst summers in years. U.S. box office sales for what is traditionally a strong period for Hollywood dipped by nearly 15% compared to the summer of 2016.
So, It‘s record-breaking debut came at an opportune time for the movie industry, as the horror film pulled in $123 million over the weekend in its domestic opening (adding another $66 million overseas) to notch the biggest opening weekend ever for any movie in the horror genre and the largest September opening of all-time. Industry analysts had predicted a strong opening weekend for It, which earned solid scores from critics with an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the film ended up blowing away predictions for a $70 million domestic opening weekend.
But, It isn’t the only horror movie to prop up Hollywood’s box-office totals this year. In fact, the horror genre has made quite the comeback in terms of box office clout over the past two years.
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Warner Bros.’ It is already the second horror film of 2017 to gross more than $100 million domestically, with a third likely to pass that same mark in the coming weeks with Warner’s Annabelle: Creation, the fourth installment in the studio’s successful Conjuring paranormal horror franchise, which currently sits at $96 million. The other film from that trio is Universal’s Get Out, the horror film and race relations satire that became a surprise blockbuster by grossing $175 million at the U.S. box office after its release in February.
Those three films have followed up on the promise of two other surprise hits in the horror genre from 2016. The first was Warner’s The Conjuring 2 (part of the same paranormal franchise as Annabelle: Creation), which grossed $102.5 million in North America last summer. Meanwhile, Sony’s home-invasion thriller Don’t Breathe earned strong reviews along with $89 million at the domestic box office on a production budget under $10 million.
These films seem to represent a resurgence of the horror genre, which for several years had failed to turn out many notable financial successes. In fact, before last year’s The Conjuring 2, the only R-rated horror film to top the $100 million-mark since 2011, was that film’s 2013 predecessor, The Conjuring.
Movie studios should be thrilled over movie audiences’ interest in horror films, as movies like Don’t Breathe and It usually come with relatively small budgets. Warner Bros. reportedly spent $35 million to make It, well below typical summer blockbuster standards, which means that studios can get that much more bang for their buck when a smaller-budget horror movie strikes gold at the box office.