'It' scares up monstrous numbers to kick off fall box office

Bill Skarsgard plays Pennywise the clown in the movie adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel "It." The movie made


By SONAIYA KELLEY | Los Angeles Times | Published: September 11, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- 'It' is a hit.

New Line Cinema’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel floated to the top in this weekend’s box office, breaking the record for the largest opening of a horror movie ever, and blowing past analysts’ $55 million projections to the tune of $123.1 million in the U.S. and Canada. The historic opening -- the third largest in 2017, if the estimate holds -- follows a sleepy Labor Day weekend that delivered the lowest ticket sales in years.

The $35 million film, about the murderous Pennywise the clown who terrorizes kids in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, was directed by Andy Muschietti and earned a B-plus rating on CinemaScore and an 87 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

"It" marks the biggest September opening weekend gross ever, surpassing previous record holder "Hotel Transylvania 2" and its $48.5 million debut in 2015. Bill Skarsgard ("Hemlock Grove") puts his own spin on the killer clown, after Tim Curry brought Pennywise to life in a 1990 TV miniseries.

The first trailer for "It" debuted in March to a record-breaking 197 million views in just one day, and the studio’s marketing campaign has also included a haunted house-style re-creation of Pennywise’s lair in Hollywood.

"I think when the stars align, it’s all about the story, and the marketing looked fun," said Jeff Goldstein, the studio’s distribution chief. "It was a much needed jolt of oxygen to really reignite the box office. We’re beyond thrilled."

Open Road Films’ romantic comedy "Home Again," starring Reese Witherspoon, placed a distant second, debuting to $9 million, just under analysts’ projections of $10 million. The film, which stars Witherspoon as a single mom in L.A. who lets three guys move in with her, earned a B on CinemaScore and a 33 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also stars Candice Bergen and Michael Sheen and is directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer.

Lionsgate’s "The Hitman’s Bodyguard" bumped to No. 3 after three weeks atop the chart, adding $4.8 million, for a cumulative total of $64.9 million. Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds, the picture’s 54 percent decline was the highest in the top five.

Coming in fourth was New Line Cinema’s "Annabelle: Creation," which, despite losing 355 sites and facing increased genre competition from "It," grossed $4 million in its fifth weekend for an estimated $96.3 million. Annabelle, whose origin story of a possessed doll that terrorizes families is told in "Creation," was first introduced in "The Conjuring" series before receiving her own stand-alone movie in 2014.

Rounding out the top five was the Weinstein Co.’s drama "Wind River," which brought in $3.2 million after adding 288 locations for a to-date total of $25 million. The crime thriller, set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming and starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (screenwriter of "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water") and earned an 86 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

This week, Lionsgate and CBS Films premiere the Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton-led "American Assassin" action flick, and Paramount reveals the mysterious psychological thriller "mother!" starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Annapurna Pictures and Amazon will also open the social media-themed adult comedy "Brad’s Status" in limited release.

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