Stephen King adaptation ‘It’ is expected to set a box-office record — and jolt Hollywood’s slow year

Bill Skarsgård plays a monster that takes the shape of a clown called Pennywise in the movie remake of “It,” based on the Stephen King novel.

After a dismal Labor Day weekend, Hollywood is sending in the clowns, with New Line Cinema's Stephen King adaptation “It” poised to give a much-needed jolt to the film business.

Movie theaters weathered the lowest-grossing Labor Day weekend in years, capping off a summer in which domestic box-office revenue dropped 16% year-over-year to $3.8 billion, according to box-office tracking firm ComScore.

But September — usually a sleepy month for ticket sales — is looking strong thanks to “It,” the $35-million horror movie about a killer clown who terrorizes kids in a small Maine town. Other September movies, such as Fox’s spy sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” both due out Sept. 22, are also likely to give movie theaters an early fall boost.

Ahead of 'It' movie release, Pennsylvania prankster ties balloon to sewer gate, 'terrifying' police »

Will ‘It’ break a record?

If “It” grosses the expected $55 million in domestic ticket sales Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, it will break the record for the biggest opening weekend in September (not adjusted for inflation).

Some bullish analysts who have read pre-release audience surveys say the film, directed by Andy Muschietti, could even hit the $70-million mark in its first weekend. The current record holder for September is Sony’s animated comedy “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which opened with $48 million in 2015.

Anticipation for the New Line and Warner Bros. horror flick has been growing since the trailer debuted in March to a record-breaking 197 million online views in its first day. The studio marketing campaign also included a haunted house-style re-creation of the monster’s lair on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Horror has been a good business for Warner’s New Line unit, which has had a string of scary hits including August’s “Annabelle: Creation” and last year’s “Lights Out.” Horror cinema has continued to be a resilient genre amid the changing theatrical marketplace because the films draw a devoted fan base that seeks out the communal viewing experience movie theaters provide. That’s probably especially true for “It,” based on one of King’s most famous novels and featuring one of his best-known villains, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård).

“‘It’ seems to be promising a true event for the genre, and that's a welcome notion to moviegoers looking for escapism right now," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at

Reese Witherspoon: Homecoming

The only other wide release this weekend is “Home Again,” a romantic comedy from Open Road Films starring Reese Witherspoon as a Los Angeles single mom who lets three young guys move in with her. “Home Again” is expected to gross roughly $10 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to analysts.

Romantic comedies have had a tough time competing at the box office in recent years, and studios just aren’t releasing as many as they used to. So far the genre’s biggest 2017 hit is “The Big Sick,” a quirky indie love story, distributed by Lionsgate and Amazon Studios, that grossed $41 million.

For Witherspoon, “Home Again” marks a return to the rom-com genre after spending the last few years starring in movies such as “Wild” and “Hot Pursuit,” in addition to the acclaimed HBO TV drama “Big Little Lies.”

Also of interest this weekend is “9/11,” starring Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg, which will play on about 400 screens in a modest release by Atlas Distribution (known for the “Atlas Shrugged” movies). The film follows five strangers trapped in an elevator during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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