Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

I remember there was a time when the weekend after Labor Day was as bad as the weekend before it, but clearly, times have changed, and studios are taking advantage of whatever real estate they can to release movies. Part of the reason for not scheduling movies this weekend was that in theory, everyone was getting back to school or work after their August and summer vacations, but a few movies changed that. Resident Evil: Apocalypse back in 2004 was one of the precursors, but its $23 million wasn’t even close to the $123 million for New Line’s It in 2017, and the studio had another hit last year with The Nun’s $54 million opening.

With that in mind, this weekend brings us to…

IT: CHAPTER 2 (New Line/WB)

It: Chapter Two
Warner Bros.

Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jennifer Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Jack Dylan Glazer, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Xavier Dolan
Directed By: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama)
MPAA Rating: R

In September 2017, there was a true gamechanger in the form of director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel It.  Granted, it had already been turned into a 1990 television mini-series starring Tim Curry from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but now it’s going to be released in theaters, hoping to find a new and younger audience of horror fans. It was somewhat surprising that New Line was so into adapting another King book, especially since the previous

The movie was a surprise hit, opening with $123 million despite having a mostly-unknown younger cast of actors with Jaeden Martell and Finn Wolfhard probably being the best known, the latter from the first season of Netflix’s Stranger Things.  Even the actor playing Pennywise the Clown, Bill Skarsgard, was better known for his acclaimed Swedish acting family than his previous television work on Hemlock Grove. When the movie opened so big and ended up grossing $327.5 million domestically (and more than that overseas!), it was proof positive that audiences hungry for horror films and ones involving killer clowns did not need big name stars to get them out to theaters. It didn’t hurt that the movie only cost $35 million and already had a built-in sequel planned as it was always meant to be a two-parter.

The big deal about this straight-up sequel is that Muschietti has brought in an impressive older cast to play the adult Loser Club, first of all reuniting with his Mama star Jessica Chastain and then bringing her back together with her frequent co-star James McAvoy, The two of them just starred in Fox’s ill-fortuned X-Men movie Dark Phoenix, but both of them already had big movies under their belt with McAvoy starring in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and its 2019 sequel Glass.  Chastain starred in both Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Ridley Scott’s The Martian, but her real breakouts were Zero Dark Thirty, for which she received an Oscar nomination and A Most Violent Year.  Also getting big buzz for the movie is Bill Hader, who has achieved newfound success since leaving “Saturday Night Live” and beginning his Emmy-nominated HBO show Barry, and they’re joined by James Ransone, Jay Ryan and Isaiah Mustafa. The key is that having those better-known actors means that Warner Bros. can use them to go out and about to various talk shows to pimp the movie, and that’s what they’ve been doing going back to Comic-Con in July where they had a movie-related installation.

Stephen King movies have had such a storied history at the box office from the slew of ‘80s and ‘90s adaptations that led to them being relegated to TV movies. The success of It started a new King Renaissance with Paramount’s remake of Pet Sematary earlier this year being one example of a studio capitalizing it.  The movie opened in early April with twice as much as the earlier movie from thirty years earlier, and yet ended up making only $54.7 million, about three million less than the 1989 movie. It also made only a few million more than 2017’s The Dark Tower, which was seen as a huge bomb despite opening only a month before It. There’s more Stephen King to come with Doctor Sleep in November, which is a direct sequel to 1990’s The Shining, directed by Mike Flanagan who previously adapted King’s Gerald’s Game.

Reviews for It: Chapter Two are fantastic at the time of this writing (85% Fresh) and Fandango has stated that it’s the fastest-selling horror movie in the ticket-sellers history, although who knows what that means? One would expect tickets to a sequel would sell faster but does that mean more sell-outs?

For this one, I look at how another R-rated movie, Deadpool, played out when it came to its sequel a few years later. Deadpool opened with $132 million back in February 2016, but that was also the Presidents Day holiday weekend with no school on Monday. It grossed $363 million, more than the first part of It, but its sequel opened with just $125.5 million in May two years later. Granted, part of that can be attributed to its holiday weekend but Deadpool 2ended up grossing $318 million, even though the movie was just as well received.

Part of me thinks It: Chapter Two might surprise and surpass the opening of its predecessor, but it’s also opening in a year where “sequelitis” is a real thing, even though this is a far more warranted and deserved sequel (essentially the end of the story) than some of the others. Because of this, I do think it will still make more than $100 million, but probably somewhere closer to $120 million or even slightly less.

This is what they call in one of those sports games I keep hearing about a “slam dunk,” because it’s doubtful any other movie will make more than $5 million with most of the returning movies being in theaters for three weeks or more. It: Chapter Two should reign over the box office quite solidly, probably for two weeks, maybe more.

My Interview with James Ransone

A Post-Game Interview with Gary Dauberman (Look for this next Monday!)

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. It: Chapter Two(New Line/WB) – $119.5 million N/A
  2. Angel Has Fallen (Lionsgate) – $5.3 million -55%
  3. Good Boys (Universal) – $5 million -47%
  4. The Lion King (Walt Disney) – $3.5 million -48%
  5. Overcomer (Sony/Affirm) – $3.1 million -45%
  6. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Universal) – $2.8 million -55%
  7. Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight) – $2.5 million -56%
  8. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (CBS Films/Lionsgate) – $2.2 million -56%
  9. The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Sony) – $2.2 million -47%
  10. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Paramount) – $2 million -52%

Nothing really significant in limited release, at least not that needs to be covered here.

Next week, STX’s crime-comedy Hustlers and Warner Bros’ adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch take on the second weekend of It: Chapter Two! Also, Amazon Studios is supposed to expand the Jillian Bell comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon wider.