We already knew that It was going to make a ton of money this weekend, but no one saw this coming. The movie about a scrappy group of kids who confront a killer clown named Pennywise, made a mammoth $123 million in North Americathis weekend and shattered a bunch of box office records in the process.
It—which is based on Stephen King’s eponymous novel—now holds the opening weekend record for an R-rated movie, a distinction previously held by Deadpool. Its success is just the latest sign that audiences just can’t get enough of horror movies. An anemic summer movie season that could prove to be the death knell for long-running franchises like Transformers and Pirates of The Caribbean, coupled with the success of films like Get Out, Split and now It, signal that Hollywood is in the midst of a major horror movie renaissance.
In fact, horror is just about the only genre outside of superhero movies that’s close to a sure thing in Hollywood. Part of that can be attributed to the communal aspect of watching scary movies. Nobody wants to find themselves alone in a dark room when confronted by something as uniquely terrifying as Pennywise. But once you move that experience into a theater full of eager horror fans who are willing to scream along with you, it becomes fun and thrilling.
A truly frightening villain isn’t the only thing It has going for it. The film arrives just two months before the hugely anticipated return of Stranger Things, another property that pits a group of outcasts against a supernatural evil. In fact, It and Stranger Things are spirit animals in more ways than one. Both are rich in 80s nostalgia and both share a star in Finn Wolfhard.
“There is something about this movie that people are ravenously interested in,” said Warner Bros. president and CCO, Toby Emmerich. “It isn’t just about Stephen King, it isn’t just about clowns and it isn’t just about the 1980s, although the ‘80s are a thing and has a certain panache.”
What Emmerich is getting at is that It succeedd because it’s a very well-made movie. Ever since the release of the first trailer, which was consumed rabidly when it hit the web earlier this year, it was clear that director Andres Muschietti had crafted something that would hit with audiences. If that initial buzz was the lighter fluid, than the sparkling reviews were the match. Since the review embargo was lifted last week, It has been hovering around 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes it one of the best-reviewed Stephen King adaptations ever.
It’s hard to overstate what a huge role reviews play in determining how much money a film makes. Some Hollywood observers and insiders are even blaming Rotten Tomatoes for singlehandedly tanking the summer movie season by steering audiences away from films that scored poorly on the site’s “Tomatometer”. The success of It once again proves that people will pay to see something of quality. That’s really what it comes down to. It had a handful of factors working against it: a troubled production history, a long running time and an R-rating. But once word got out that the film works on nearly every level, audiences couldn’t stay away.
Take note, Hollywood.