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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates

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It proves what has been clear for a long time… when you have THE movie that people want to see, you could open it in a sewer during a hurricane and it will still open great.

That said ,It has nothing at all to do with August box office or the summer. Had It been released in August, it would have had a similar opening and delivered a Top 3 all-time August opening and by itself would have made the drop from 2016 about 5% smaller. Had there been another Compton-level August release, the summer would have been about the same as 2014. There still would have been hysteria… but that is entertainment coverage. Everything is tainted by obsessive myopia (in great part because the trades have erased institutional memory).

And for those of you anxious to tell me how wrong I was about the It opening, yes… I was wrong last month. But I was factually accurate. This opening should more than double the previous best September opening (Hotel Transylvania 2‘s $48.2m launch). That is a major box office event. And WB, before tracking came on insane, would have been giddy with a $40 million opening and wet their pants for a $55m open. This number will have execs wrestling for credit for many months, especially in conversations with the new AT&T overlords.

It should also be the #2 all-time R-rated opening, which gives WB four of the Top 6 of all-time.

Paranormal Activity 3‘s $52.6 million opening was the previous R-rated top opening in the genre. The Conjuring‘s $42 million opening was top original opening. Insidious Chapter 2 was the PG-13 champ with $40 million. (Scary Movie, a spoof of horror, had a second-best ever $42.3 million launch.)

Why did It open like this? There will be stories with numbered lists all next week, explaining that the authors really don’t know. I don’t know either. Hollywood loves formula and this will be a formula that every exec in town – even Jason Blum – will be trying to solve.

I would say that It has It… the difference between Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield… between James Dean and Montgomery Clift… between The Rock and Jason Statham. It’s not that the others are inherently inferior. They aren’t. But some films – and talent – just rises above in a way that can’t quite be explained… at least when we are being honest.

Some will say that I am saying this because I don’t personally have the answer. But that is not completely true. If I were an exec, I would have happily made It and would have expected to make money. But no one can honestly claim they saw this coming. (Yes, fanboys… you saw it coming…. ya.) Hollywood is littered with big expectations for Stephen King movies. Children gathering to fight off ultimate evil is nothing new. Some really terrific movies have done a lot less business in September.

My personal standard for analysis requires the ability to see the repetition of a phenomenon, preferably at least three or four times before being embraced.

For a long while, Sony and Screen Gems owned the September genre slot. There were 26 $20m+ openings in September between 2003 and 2015. Seventeen of them were from Sony divisions. Three were cartoons, but the rest were in the action genre.

This opening, as well as the likely $45 million+ opening of Kingsman 2, will change how studios see September. But it’s worth noting that both of this month’s likely big opens (by September standards) are genre films. Sully is also still on the radar though, with its $35 million launch last year.

BUT… it must be noted, both in micro and macro, that the major studios didn’t release a single movie between Annabelle: Creation‘s August 11 launch and It‘s September 8 launch. Abandoned the space. Almost a full month. And this is with everyone really expecting The Dark Tower to be a bust months out. Atomic Blonde came up from the minors to be handled by Big Universal, but July 21’s Dunkirk/Girls Trip weekend was the end of the summer for everyone except Sony (who had The Emoji Movie and Dark Tower before they, too, shut down).

Who the HELL scheduled this summer for the majors?

Fox did great putting Apes 2 in July in 2014… but they were hammocked by non-competitors, Tammy and Deliver Us From Evil the weekend before, and The Purge, Sex Tape and Planes the weekend after. This summer? Right in there between Spider-Man: Homecoming and Dunkirk. Are you kidding??? With the entire month of August open?

June was brutally dense. Could The Mummy have opened huge, even with Wonder Woman the weekend before, had audiences wanted it? Of course. But was there another $20 million in lazy “we’re at the theater… what should we go to?” in August? Probably. Baby Driver did great, but the strategic move to create more positive energy at Sony by moving the action-comedy to late June, long before The Dark Tower and cleaning up the Rough Night mess, probably cost that film $20 million domestic.

Congratulations to It and to Warner Bros. I would be more thrilled if it was a very good movie. It’s not. Another myth busted… quality reflected in wide release box office… ha.

And by the way… Open Road opened a Reese Witherspoon movie from the Spawn of Meyers/Shyer this weekend. It is doing about what Reese Witherspoon can be expected to do these days. Reese owned the September opening record for a decade with Sweet Home Alabama (2002). So there is something perfect about her having a new release on the date where the new September record-holder lands.

I can hear Nancy Meyers screaming about Open Road screwing up her kid’s movie release from over here on the other side of Beverly Hills from her elegant kitchen in (enter wealthy enclave). But she is wrong. It’s been over eight years since Witherspoon had a $20 million opening. I don’t think RT changed the box office, but the movie is a Rotten Tomatoes 32. The marketing budget at Open Road was never going to be the size of Sony or Universal, perhaps faking out more people into buying tickets this weekend. But a $10 million launch for Home Again is a win, in my book. And no blaming It. In fact, I bet a chunk of this Reese opening is a counterprogramming win for women who like Reese and don’t want to be scared. (They can go to It and not be scared… but…)

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35 Responses to “Friday Estimates”

  1. Ray Pride says:

    Was the Nancy Meyers production widely press-screened?

  2. Stella's Boy says:

    It Spoilers

    I’m glad it’s doing so well as I am tired of The Conjuring Universe and happy to see another R-rated horror movie succeed. I just wish I liked it more. It peaks in the first five minutes. The killing of Georgie is bone-chilling. I was extremely shaken and unsettled. Truly horrifying sequence. It never comes close to matching that scene though. Pennywise talks too much and is as goofy and unintentionally funny as often as he’s imposing and scary. The marketing campaign, while clearly effective, gave away way too much. I feel like I had seen at least 75% of the best scare scenes in trailers and TV spots. Some pretty shaky CGI too. Also, the finale is a massive letdown. I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on. It’s as poorly staged as Georgie’s death is effective. The kids are mostly great and have good rapport and feel like friends, and there some eerie and well-staged moments. But I’ll remember the first five minutes far more than the last 125. Not bad but a bit of a letdown. I’m looking forward to part 2 though.

  3. Chris says:

    Wednesday evening before opening in Twin Cities for “Home Again.” So, just barely screened here.

  4. MarkVH says:

    I enjoyed It. About a B-, B if I’m being generous. Way too over-reliant on CGI and LOUD NOISES for its scare effects. But the interaction between the kids is terrific, it’s got some big belly laughs and it’s surprisingly touching. Don’t think it really comes together, but some good moments.

  5. brack says:

    “It” proves you can open a movie any month of the year, and if people want to see it, it will open, period. Kingsman 2 is a sequel to a hit move, so a front-loaded opening that also break HT2’s seems like repeating something HT2 already proved you could do in September, and really not any different than had it opened any other month of the year.

    “It” was a good movie. As good as its marketing? I agree there, but the cast was very likeable and there were some fine performances. Liked Pennywise, though it’s hard to beat Tim Curry’s performance. Comparing any King movie/miniseries to original source is a waste of time, because his longer books could make up full seasons (i.e. Game of Thrones). The ending had problems, especially with a certain side character that had good scenes and then disappeared, which made no sense narratively, unless Part 2 is going to go into a completely different direction with the story with a side character.

  6. js Partisan says:

    Kingsman 2, is probably going to do better than 45m. Especially, if the reviews that get out, are fucking raves. Seriously though, IT always screamed, “100m dollar opening.” It had the most viewed trailer on Youtube in the first day, and that usually leads to the film garnering that honor… having a hell of an opening.

  7. FilmTurtle says:

    There’s also undoubtedly something in the zeitgeist related to the horrors in the news and exorcising related anxiety and distress in the safe confines of a theatre. Can’t discount that effect.

    Maybe, also, a general audience wasn’t up to watching pretty, rich white people meet cute, etc. and dither about rich-people problems.

  8. Movieman says:

    I like a good Nancy Meyers movie (e.g, “Something’s Gotta Give”) as well as anyone, but daughter Hallie’s “Home Again” is so utterly synthetic/phony it makes her mom’s rom-coms seem like post-WW II Italian neorealism.
    Also found it perverse that Reese hooks up with the least attractive of the young dudes living in her guest house. WTF?!?
    Lake Bell (who I’m usually not a fan of) is very good, however, as is Candice Bergen in the underwritten role of Reese’s mother.
    A $10-miillion opening is better than it deserves.
    The only pre-release “screening” in Cleveland was Wednesday night as well.
    The message from Open Road was loud and clear: don’t bother.

    Can’t say that I really understand what the fuss about “It” is all about.
    Weird that a movie based on a doorstopper of a book from the late ’80s is performing like a Potter or “Hunger Games” entry. Yeah, the trailer was good, but so are the trailers of dozens of other movies that nobody goes to see.
    Guess it’s the season of killer clowns (“AHS” is apparently doing pretty much the same thing this season).

  9. Stella's Boy says:

    I agree, about a B-/B. When I saw It I had four teenagers directly to my left and a group of similar size, in their 50s or maybe 60, directly to my right. That was true all over the theater. I see a lot of horror movies and that never happens. You might see a handful of older views but not half a theater full. So it’s clearly appealing to older viewers who read or are familiar with the book and teenagers who like horror and/or the freaky trailer.

    I don’t think AHS is doing the same thing the season. Not based on one episode anyway (which was fantastic).

  10. Geoff says:

    I highly doubt any one could have predicted a $100 million opening for It no matter the time of year or the reviews….but Scott Mendelson pointed this out in his columns earlier in the year when the hype started building up – SOME properties hit just the right sweet spot of nostalgia, he compared this to Beauty & the Beast and he was spot-on apparently. The 1990 miniseries apparently had HUGE ratings at the time (I was probably the only middle school-er I knew at the time who did NOT see it), everybody remembers Tim Curry as Pennywise as one of those iconic horror movie villains, and….apparently It is THE biggest selling Stephen King novel which is REALLY saying something considering the unwavering popularity his books have had since the ’70’s. You got me as to WHICH nostalgia-based marketing campaigns will click and which won’t though – for every Jurassic World there’s an Independence Day Resurgence….for every Beauty & the Beast there’s a Ghostbusters, I don’t know if there’s a science to it at all. Even books sales are not always a predictor – Dolores Claiborne and Needful Things were apparently his biggest sellers in the ’90’s while both tanked as movies… did Carrie a few years back.

    Kudos to the Warners marketing department though for pulling this off because before their marketing campaign started, this film was riding a wave of pretty lousy buzz including the defection of Cary Fukinagwa as the first director….compounded with multiple false starts for The Dark Tower and The Stand adaptations, they had some strong headwinds they were going into just based on the Stephen King brand. The trailers were effective, the posters were effective, and apparently the child cast has just charmed the pants off of any one they have encountered through the press tour. One over-riding lesson for Warners after this as well as the Patty Jenkins goodwill tour this spring for Wonder Woman: send folks out there who are LIKEABLE to go out in FORCE to get early buy-in from the entertainment media! 😉 And for Justice League, that means to send out Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, and JK Simmons…..tell Ben Affleck and Joss Whedon to stay home, plain and simple.

    Oh and props to Sony and Marvel for pulling it off for Spiderman: Homecoming – looks like it will top $900 million worldwide after taking off in China….and on a lower budget than just about every Spider-Man movie except for the first one in 2002 which itself was pretty damn expensive for the time. Not sure if they got him for a discount, but THIS is why you add RDJ to your cast and make him the focal point of your marketing campaign.

  11. Movieman says:

    No? There certainly seemed to be a killer clown motif on the “AHS” season opener to me, SB, lol.
    Of course, there’s a whole else going on, too, but the clowns sure loomed large and ornery.

  12. EtGuild2 says:

    “I would be more thrilled if it was a very good movie. It’s not. Another myth busted… quality reflected in wide release box office… ha.”

    Lol…as it scores in the top 2% of wife release horror. I always enjoy when you pretend only you have an opinion and ignore reality. For the record, I didn’t think it was great either, but no one in their right mind could claim the vast vast majority of movie makers disagree in relation to how the genre usually scores.

  13. EtGuild2 says:

    Btw, I still am unsure if I’m sad about the fact we missed out on the great version, complete with Cary Fukunagas vision of child sex orgies.

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    Other than the fact that each as a clown in it, no, there’s really nothing similar about the two.

    Latest weekend number is $123 million. That is just insane. And Geoff I agree anyone claiming that $100 million was a sure thing is engaging in revisionist history. No one on Earth was predicting that. When early tracking was suggesting $40-$50 million, that was considered a bit of a surprise. Will part 2 be put on the fast track now and start filming next week?

  15. Non-Revisionist says:

    Stella’s Boy, Warner Brothers asked market research companies to keep their initial projections low. None of them actually thought it would make $40-50 million.

  16. Stella Boy says:

    Why? And how do you know? Were you projecting $123 million? Was anyone?

  17. Non-Revisionist says:

    No, no one was predicting $123 million (looks like it’s $117.5 now according to most non-Deadline sources, which is still insane, obviously). I know because I work in the industry. In terms of why, it’s largely because while everyone knew it was going to be huge, no one knew exactly HOW huge. It’s hard to predict the exact upside of a runaway freight train like this. Warner Brothers wanted to manage expectations until it became clearer that there was no way this one would disappoint. And even then, the most optimistic projections were still low by $30 million or so.

  18. Glamourboy says:

    Saw it last night with a group of friends….the movie delivers…it is relentlessly creepy and scary…delivered the thrills….big applause at the end of the screening. It is pretty simple…the trailer was great and got passed around quite a bit…..and IT became an event. I will probably see it a second time because I had so much fun.

  19. Stella Boy says:

    I can buy that. I suppose some will point to your post and say see told you $100 million-plus isn’t surprising but I sure don’t recall anyone guessing anything even close to that before Thursday night.

  20. Geoff says:

    $117 million opening in early September for a horror movie (even based on a very well known IP) is just INSANE….and to think it would have grossed even HIGHER if most of Florida and a third of Texas was shut down.

    If nothing else, this will revive interest in launching properties based on Stephen King horror novels….DESPITE The Dark Tower which wasn’t really a horror novel any way.

    Just curious if any one knows this but are the Stephen King properties just scattered across many studios at this point? I know that there’s a Castle Rock “shared universe” show coming out on Hulu next year so I’m guessing there’s might be some shared ownership over many of the more notable characters such as the Gunslinger, Pennywise, and Randall Flag. There was a run of Paramount movies in the ’80’s based on King novels, then a run of Columbia movies in the ’90’s….at the same time as a run of ABC miniseries around the same time.

  21. Stella's Boy says:

    Netflix has Gerald’s Game (later this month) and 1922 (October). Jeff Buhler wrote a Pet Semetary remake for Paramount that allegedly has a decent shot of being made. There is serious talk of Blumhouse remaking Firestarter. Beyond that, lots of rumors. That will probably change very soon.

  22. Movieman says:

    SB- I wasn’t implying that their storylines were remotely similar, just that it seemed interesting that killer clowns play such a large role in both narratives.
    And that homicidal clowns seem to be having their pop culture moment.

  23. Geoffs says:

    Blumhouse doing Firestarter could be potentially huge and they would know how to market it – I just wonder if a character being able to shoot fire is going to seem as novel or as scary anymore after so many versions of that sort of characters through various comic boom-based properties.

  24. Bulldog68 says:

    It’s amazing how things explode. The Mist series also recently showed up on Netflix.

    A few weeks ago I pondered whether It would be the first movie to score $100m in the September calendar month, now it’s done it in one weekend. Phenomenal.

    This has got to be the best year for horror ever. It, Get Out, Split (maybe more a thriller but still provided a few scares), and Annabelle all getting passed $100m, that’s gotta be some kind of a record.

  25. EtGuild2 says:

    In other news, the irrepressible, indomitable WOLF WARRIOR 2 passed GOTG2 at the worldwide box office and is closing in on THE AVENGERS offshore.

    We did have a few IT sellouts at the local theater…makes me wonder if ANNABELLE 2 benefited with that much better than expected hold. Surprised that it’ll overtake CONJURING 2 domestically.

  26. js Partisan says:

    I am serious when I write this: WE DIDN’T ALL SEE IT’s OPENING COMING? That’s in caps, because I never once brought up it opening at 100m, because I assumed we all agreed on this. It was just painfully obvious, that IT was going to be ginormous. Absolutely ginormous. This is why MOTHER!… no matter how great it may, or may not be, is going to be an afterthought. Which is good, because Jennifer Lawrence needs to stop dicking around, and Aronofsky needs to stop making horror films about dating a younger woman :D!

    Oh yeah, welcome back, Geoff. Also, that’s why you sell RDJ abroad, and don’t sell him as much here. American audiences and international audiences, are really fucking diverging greatly on multiple properties. What works there… doesn’t seem to work here anymore.

  27. Stella's Boy says:

    No JS we didn’t all see it coming, so pardon me if I find that to be total BS. Very easy to say after the fact.

  28. EtGuild2 says:

    JS, having attended a mother! screening today, I can say without hesitation that Congress could pass a law mandating it be the only movie shown in theaters until Halloween, and it still wouldn’t come close to IT’s opening. mother! wants you to loathe it so much you hurl popcorn at the screen and scream in rage. It failed in my case, but succeeded for some of the audience.

  29. js Partisan says:

    SB, this is why you are a weird cat. I implicitly state, that I didn’t bring it up, because I assumed ALL OF US (That’s you too, buddy) were on the same page with the money it would make. I never brought it up, because we know box office better than most people on earth, so I figured we were all on the same page. This isn’t about tooting my own horn. It’s about me being absolutely shocked! SHOCKED, DEAR BOY! This surprised any of you.

    And again, I thought 100m was a foregone conclusion. Almost 120m, after one hurricane hit the the fourth biggest city, and another one hit Florida? That’s nuts.

    Ethan, yeah, that screams fun.

  30. leahnz says:

    “It peaks in the first five minutes. The killing of Georgie is bone-chilling…It never comes close to matching that scene though”

    IT is a bit of a mess and i didn’t find IT scary, IT’s poorly written (messy and has no flow, characters underdeveloped), thematically bereft, way too try-hard in the ’80’s retro’ mash up – and why move the setting at all? – looks fake. (was nobody alive in the 80’s to advise on these matters on the set?)
    nicely photographed and the kids are decent but if this is what’s considered good mainstream horror now the bar is bargain-basement low

    ETA for clarity

  31. Bulldog68 says:

    No we did not all see it coming because when in the history of box office prognosticating have prognosticators been on the same page…ever?

    Everyone could agree that a movie will open big, but like It, and Jurassic World, and TFA, and Avengers, and many other surprise mega openings, its all about range. It could have been a $60m opening and it would still have been over the moon glowing headlines about breaking records.

    Here’s the deal JS, the next time you have a number in mind, state it, that way it’s a matter of public record and we can all comment on how you got it right. After all, Dave puts up with our slings and arrows when he prognosticates and is wrong.

    Don’t assume we’re all in the same page, when you assume you make an ass out of you, not me. Clichè I know.

  32. Triple Option says:

    No one really mentioned a dollar range opening for It. I thought I had said more but all I could find of past posts was along the lines of “It was going to make a statement for it’s opening.” If I saw multiple posts of people thinking it’d open in the 30s, 40s or even 50s I would’ve offered a rebuttal. Maybe it was just my everyday convos with people anticipating movies but I’m kinda with JS on this, I thought we were all riding out the so-called summer slump until Sept came for It to breakout.

  33. js Partisan says:

    Bulldog, that’s fine and all, but I never really brought it up, because this seemed obvious. IT had the most viewed trailer on YouTube, for the first 24 hours. THAT ALWAYS TRANSLATES TO MONEY! Star Wars, FUCKING STAR WARS, had to beat it. The moment that happened. It seemed obvious to me, that 100m was coming.

    Yes. It’s the first time, but look what we have seen. We have seen DEAD MONTHS like FEBRUARY and MARCH, turn into huge box office months. Hell. January, even has had some solid earners, because there aren’t any dead months anymore… outside August, because they DON’T BOOK IT RIGHT!

    Nevertheless, I will blurt out shit in the future, but this shit seems obvious as well. Thor will probably get close to a billion, but not make it. JL, will probably do the same, because there is only so much Wonder Woman can do to overcome… THAT! Mother! is going to bomb, so there’s that :D!

  34. palmtree says:

    IT has opened bigger than every single movie except for 26 of them. Each of those 26 films were huge franchises with proven track records. No one saw this coming, not even people who knew it was going to be big. Big sure, but this big?

  35. Bulldog68 says:

    Yes JS, it was obvious that It would have a bigger opening weekend than every Spiderman except Spiderman 3, Wonder Woman, most Hunger Games, most Marvel movies, a few Harry Potters, all the LotR movies, and all Pirates movies except Dead Man’s Chest. So obvious.

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And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

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