The killer clown got the last laugh this weekend. As many box office prognosticators predicted, the new big screen adaptation of Stephen King's IT floated to the top of the box office charts with ease, making $123 million against a budget of $35 million, which practically guarantees a Chapter 2 in the future. (The tougher question is this: Will New Line Cinema, the studio behind the movie, resist the urge to split the next sequel in two and turn this into a trilogy?)
What was most impressive of about the opening weekend wasn't the amount of money necessarily, but the amount of box office records the film broke.
This was a Michael Phelps-style performance: In addition to having the best September opening of all time and the best opening for a Stephen King adaptation, the scary movie also had the best opening for an R-rated horror movie ever. It had the second highest opening for an R-rated film regardless of genre, trailing only behind last year's superhero hit Deadpool. As an article on Forbes notes, it also has the lowest budget for any movie to ever cross the $100 million threshold in a single weekend. The film's investors will be able to buy a lot of clown cars with all that cash.
As with any movie that overperforms against industry expectations or flops in an embarrassing manner, there will be a series of leading questions that attempt to "explain" the IT phenomenon. Is the creepy clown trend here to stay? Did Stranger Things help prime the pump for this? Do Stephen King books guarantee big money? (The answer to that last one is no.) After a summer of disappointing box office returns, filled with lackluster entries in long-running series and tedious attempts to breathe life into dead-on-arrival intellectual property, it's unsurprising that Hollywood will use this as an opportunity to do some positive self-reflection for a change. The runaway success of IT could make you think, "Hey, the system works!"
There are clearly many factors at play, but one element can't be overstated: This was a skillfully marketed movie that delivered exactly what it promised.