Can a killer clown save the summer box office?

Numbers down compared to last year

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
Copyright 2019 CNN

Presale tickets for "It: Chapter Two" are huge.

(CNN) - After a sluggish summer led by a pack of photorealistic lions, Hollywood is hoping that a killer clown can give the US box office a little help.

"It Chapter Two," Warner Bros.' follow-up to 2017's horror hit "It," brought in $10.5 million on Thursday night. The film, which is based on the Stephen King bestseller and stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, is expected to bring in $85 to $90 million this weekend.

The US box office is down roughly 6.5% compared to last year after the winter and summer seasons missing the mark. But "Chapter Two" is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and could give Hollywood the momentum it needs to end the year on a positive note.

The expectations for "Chapter Two" would make it one of the biggest films in the history of September and in the horror genre. So that's a good start. But if the movie does hit those expectations, it would still bring in less than what the original made over its opening weekend two years ago. The first "It" was one of the biggest surprises of 2017, shattering records with a $123 million opening before going on to make roughly $700 million worldwide.

"Chapter Two" may not make as much as its predecessor, but it could exceed expectations this weekend, according to Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations.

"'It: Chapter Two' arrives at a time when the box office is essentially in a holding pattern," Bock told CNN Business. "The last few weeks haven't seen a true event film emerge and when that happens, typically, the industry sees immense openings."

Although "Chapter Two" has a lot of buzz around it, its box office totals could be hampered by the film's long run time, which clocks in at two hours and 49 minutes, roughly 35 minutes more than the first.

Longer films usually mean fewer showtimes and thus less money at the ticket booth. But Bock believes the near-three-hour running time won't be too much of a problem, citing "Avengers: Endgame" and "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood" as examples of lengthy hits this year. Both were either three hours long or close to it.

"Audiences are not opposed to longer running times, as long as the content is well received," Bock said.

The running time for "Chapter Two" has been a point of criticism in the film's reviews, which are mixed. The film has a 66% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes.

"The main problem with 'Chapter Two' is that it goes on, and on, for so very long," wrote Leah Greenblatt, a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly.

The box office grosses for "Chapter Two" this weekend are not just a big deal for the US box office, but also for its studio, Warner Bros.

Warner Bros., which like CNN is owned by WarnerMedia, had a bumpy summer with films like "Pokemon: Detective Pikachu," "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," "Shaft" and "The Kitchen" bringing in mixed-to-disappointing results.

The studio is hoping that "It: Chapter Two" can turn the tide, but if it doesn't, Warner will get another bite at the killer clown apple soon: its "Joker" is in theaters next month.

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