It: Chapter Two—Warner Bros. and New Line's star-studded horror sequel—scared some life back into a sagging end-of-summer box office with a $91 million domestic haul across its opening weekend.
That figure, while below the monstrous $123 million domestic launch of 2017's It, still ranks as the second-best horror opening in Hollywood history. The first film stands as the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, with a global haul of more than $700 million. Chapter Two made $185 million globally this past weekend, about on par with the previous film. Notably, the sequel exceeded somewhat conservative expectations; analysts had ballparked the movie around $85-90 million.
One possiblity is that the film's ballooning runtime meant fewer showtimes and, consequently, a little less money at the box office; with a 169-minute runtime, it's about 35 minutes longer than It.
And even if Warner Bros. and New Line programmed more theaters to compensate, getting audiences into theaters for a movie of that length is alway a big ask. While Avengers: Endgame (on its way to become the most successful movie of all time) was seen by many as having earned its colossal 182-minute length, serving as the capstone to a massive 22-film story, Chapter Two perhaps alienated some viewers who didn't feel the end to this scary saga, which started just two years ago, warranted quite as much of their time.
Comscore box office analyst Paul Degarabedian told Fortune: "The downside of having a very successful franchise is that, if a first film is particularly strong and record breaking, it’s a really high bar."
"It's a three-hour, R-rated horror sequel," he added. "On paper, those aren't going to be huge."
Still, a $91 million opening is huge business, especially for horror, and Chapter Two was aided in part by opening virtually unopposed. While box-office heavies like The Lion King and Hobbs & Shaw are still hanging around, both opened well ahead of Labor Day and are heading into their last weeks in theaters. Chapter Two, meanwhile, was an anticipated movie "event," and it owes much of that $91 million haul to a marketing campaign that urged audiences to see it opening weekend and avoid being left out of the cultural conversation it would dominate.
This should be seen as a major win for Warner Bros. in particular, given that its summer slate was replete with disappointments, from films that should have been huge but opened to surprisingly mediocre numbers (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Shaft) to ones that had seemed somewhat doomed heading into their opening frames, through due to abysmal reviews or botched marketing campaigns (The Kitchen, Blinded by the Light).
The real test for It: Chapter Two will be whether it can come close to matching its predecessor's overall haul. Horror is a famously frontloaded genre, doing most of its office across super-sized opening weekends before dropping precipitously in subsequent frames. The first film dropped 51.1% in its second weekend, and a decrease in ticket sales even more stated than that feels likely for the sequel, which is specifically courting those in the first film's audience who liked It enough to come back for seconds.
"Horror movies typically drop heavy,” said Degarabedian. "We live in a world where a 50 to 55% drop in a second weekend is a really minuscule drop. Some of the horror movies considered to be crap would drop like 75 to 80% in their second weekend."
The prestige factor may boost "Chapter Two," he said. "It had so much going for it," said Degarabedian. "Sometimes, the bigger you are the harder you fall. But if this one’s anywhere in that 50 to 55% realm, it’ll be great for the film."
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