After the worst summer at the box office in 25 years , studios were quick to blame everything but the product they were putting out. Instead of reconsidering their own movies, studios aimed to shrink the PVOD window while blaming Rotten Tomatoes for daring to aggregate the bad critics’ scores of bad movies, which is kind of like blaming The Weather Channel for reporting on bad weather. “People would have taken their families to the park and to the lake, if only The Weather Channel hadn’t reported that it was going to rain! It’s not the rain’s fault; it’s the weather man’s!”
What studios won’t do, however, is consider how much Rotten Tomatoes helps a good movie. Jordan Peele’s Get Out, made for $4.5 million, has earned $175 million this year, and it’s score on Rotten Tomatoes? 99 percent. That was a huge selling point for many who would not otherwise consider a low-budget horror movie. Baby Driver scored over $100 million because it was a good movie, and Rotten Tomatoes merely reported that fact. Four of the top five movies of the summer all scored over 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (the fifth was Despicable Me 3 and kids don’t pay as much attention to Rotten Tomatoes, obviously). There’s a lot that goes into a successful movie — social media, marketing, critical reception — but it begins with the product.
To wit: Stephen King’s It is sporting a very good 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That tracks roughly with the audience score (90 percent), and the Cinemascore (B+, which is very good for a horror movie). New Line Cinema made a good movie, they marketed it well, and Rotten Tomatoes loved it. The result: The movie is breaking all the box office records for September and October. With around $123 million this weekend, It has set the opening weekend records for any movie released between Labor Day and November, and it’s looking like the second-biggest weekend ever for an R-Rated movie (behind only Deadpool). It’s also the biggest opening weekend ever for a horror movie, and it’s looking to double the next closest competitor Paranormal Activity with $52 million) and nearly triple number three (The Conjuring with $41 million). Those records are on top of the best opening day ever for a horror flick ($51 million) and the highest Thursday night preview grosses for a horror film ($13.5 million),
Remarkably, It is putting up these gigantic numbers following two of the worst weekends of this century at the box office, and it’s doing so despite the fact that Florida — the fourth most populous state in America — is facing down Hurricane Irma while Houston — the fourth most populous city in America — is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. That is impressive, even more so considering it was done without a single major star or even a particularly well known director (Andy Muschietti was heretofore only known for directing Mama).
Not for nothing, but It also proves once again that studios do not have to spend $200 million to make a blockbuster hit. It only cost $35 million to make. It more than tripled its budget on opening weekend.
Meanwhile, there was another new release this weekend: Reese Witherspoon’s Home Again, the debut project from Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Father of the Bride). Home Again is very much in the vein of her mother’s movies, too: Sweet, inoffensive, and charming, but very generic (save for a surprisingly nice performance from former SNLer Jon Rudnitsky). It earned $8.3 million at the box office, which is OK for a film made for $15 million that will probably earn most of its revenue on streaming and digital this holiday season. It probably would have performed much better if it were a better movie (33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a B on Cinemascore).
With no other new releases, the rest of the weekend consisted only of holdovers, and unsurprisingly, the bottom eight looks like the last two weeks at the box office: The Hitman’s Bodyguard came in at number three with $4.86 million to push its way to nearly $65 million, good enough for the second biggest movie released in August behind only Annabelle: Creation, which came in at number four and nudged itself close to $100 million with $96 million cumulative. Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River hasn’t gotten nearly the notices of his 2016 Oscar nominated Hell or High Water but it has quietly nearly matched his previous effort at the box office (Wind River has made $25 million compared to the $27 million of Hell or High Water.
Leap’s $2.5 million brings it to $15 million, so far, while Dunkirk has climbed to $181 million. Spider-Man: Homecoming adds $1.9 million to bring its domestic total to $327 million, while Logan Lucky — with $25 million, total — has nearly matched its production budget of $30 million. Not great, but not a disaster (unfortunately, Rotten Tomatoes could not help the Steven Soderbergh film despite a 92 percent score). Finally, The Emoji Movie clung to the bottom rung of the top 10 for one more week, coming in below $1 million to bring its total to $82 million.
I expect that It will almost certainly repeat at number one next weekend, but it will face some stiff competition from another horror entry, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence. Michael Keaton’s American Assassin, which looks like it was made for Redbox, is also opening wide next weekend, along with All I See is You from director Marc Forster, who we haven’t heard from since 2013’s World War Z. The thriller — which stars Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Yvonne Strahovski, and Danny Huston — could have some modest sleeper potential, but I wouldn’t count on it given its mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score.