Pennywise may be a living nightmare for the fictional town of Derry, Maine. But the evil cosmic clown is probably about to be a dream come true for Warner Bros. and its New Line Cinema unit.
“It Chapter Two,” a horror sequel based on the epic Stephen King novel, is poised to open with $90 million to $110 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to people who have reviewed prerelease audience surveys.
The star-studded movie’s debut should represent a strong start for the fall movie season. That would be a relief for cinemas following a lackluster summer that saw revenues drop by 2% from a year ago to $4.32 billion, according to Comscore. Domestic ticket sales so far this year are still down 6% from the same time in 2018, despite 2019 hits including “The Lion King” and “Toy Story 4.”
Insane clown posse
The scary sequel comes two years after the first “It” — about a group of kids terrorized by a shape-shifting force — opened with a stellar $123 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest-opening horror film ever. The $35-million movie, directed by Andy Muschietti, ended up with $700 million in global grosses.
“Chapter Two,” also directed by Muschietti and written by Gary Dauberman, revisits the characters, now 27 years older, who must end the terror of Pennywise for good. It should represent another win for the horror genre, which has proved to be a powerful draw at the multiplex even as other types of non-superhero, non-animated movies struggle to lure audiences.
“‘It Chapter Two’ is dominating prerelease chatter and trends in a way that only its predecessor has ever achieved within the horror genre,” said Boxoffice.com analyst Shawn Robbins.
While the movie is likely to open strong, its long-term prospects are harder to predict. The new film runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is much longer than the typical horror movie and limits the number of showtimes. It also was much more expensive to make because of the larger cast required to play the grown-up versions of the characters. “It Chapter Two” cost about $80 million to produce, more than double the first film‘s budget.
Reviews for the sequel have been generally positive, but less so than for the original. Some critics have criticized the pacing while praising the performances of the actors, including Bill Hader, who plays the adult Richie Tozier. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy also join the cast. Bill Skarsgård returns as Pennywise, along with child actors from the 2017 film who were digitally de-aged for flashback scenes.
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” continued to dominate theaters in China, the second largest box office market. The Universal Pictures action spinoff topped the charts there with $26.3 million last weekend for a total of $164.9 million so far from China, according to consulting firm Artisan Gateway.
In second place was “Ne Zha,” a Chinese animated film that has proved to be a runaway success in the country. The film, about a young boy with special powers who finds himself an outcast, has collected $664.5 million in China, including $16 million last weekend, making it China’s highest-grossing animated film ever.
“Ne Zha” debuted in U.S. Imax theaters during Labor Day weekend, earning a solid $1.49 million from 66 theaters through Monday. The movie is distributed in the U.S. by Well Go USA Inc.