'It' drives record September box office with Tom Cruise's 'American Made' ready to battle 'Kingsman'

Tom Cruise in the trailer for "American Made." Warning: This video contains profanity.

Tom Cruise’s new action film “American Made” will battle “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and “It” for box-office victory this weekend, closing out what is on pace to become a record-breaking September at the domestic box office.

Movies this month have grossed $592 million so far in the United States and Canada, putting the month on track to easily exceed the record $616 million in September in 2015, not adjusting for inflation, according to comScore. The robust ticket sales, thanks largely to New Line Cinema’s Stephen King adaptation “It,” come as a morale boost for the industry after its worst summer season in years.

The remaining question is whether Cruise, Pennywise the Clown of “It,” or the profane super-spies of “Kingsman” will reign over the box office as the month ends. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures will release its sci-fi thriller “Flatliners,” and Fox Searchlight will broaden its release of the well-reviewed tennis film “Battle of the Sexes.”

Planes, cocaine and firearms

“American Made,” about a pilot and hustler recruited by the CIA for a massive international covert operation, is expected to collect $12 million to $15 million Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. The movie, released by Universal Pictures and financed by Cross Creek Pictures, is the latest stunt-fueled collaboration from Cruise and director Doug Liman, who previously made “Edge of Tomorrow” together. “American Made” is based on the true story of Barry Seal, who ran drugs for Pablo Escobar.

The film will mark the latest test of Cruise’s draw as an action star with North American audiences outside the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. His recent film, “The Mummy,” was a box office disappointment and was panned by critics. “American Made,” by contrast, has earned mostly positive notices from reviewers (earning a score of 89% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes), which bodes well for its prospects. “American Made,” which was produced for $54 million after tax breaks, is off to a strong start internationally, generating $60 million in receipts since August in countries including Great Britain and Australia.


‘Kingsman’ or ‘It’?

Despite being the biggest new release, “American Made” probably won’t steal the No. 1 spot this weekend. Analysts expect that distinction to go to 20th Century Fox’s “Kingsman” sequel, which should gross $18 million in its second weekend, after debuting to a slightly less-than-expected $39 million in the U.S. and Canada. Including international grosses, the $104-million film has taken in about $100 million so far.

However, if “Kingsman” underperforms, that would leave the horror smash “It” with an unusual opportunity to reclaim the top spot in its fourth weekend. The $35-million film is already the biggest September release ever, with $266 million domestically (plus $212 million from foreign countries). “It” could add $15 million more to its coffers this weekend, analysts said.


Checking the pulse

Sony Pictures will try to attract sci-fi and horror genre fans with the reboot of the 1990 film “Flatliners,” about a group of medical students who try to glimpse the afterlife by triggering their own near-death experiences. The film, starring Ellen Page and Diego Luna, is expected to gross about $8 million this weekend, according to analysts. Other movies opening this weekend include “Til Death Do Us Part,” a thriller starring Taye Diggs that will probably take in $4 million or less.

Fox Searchlight’s sports drama “Battle of the Sexes,” about the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, will expand to 1,200 theaters after its successful limited release last weekend. Starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, the film is expected to gross about $6 million Friday through Sunday, adding to the $515,000 it has earned from 21 theaters so far.

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Twitter: @rfaughnder


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