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WB and New Line's 'It' Propels September 2017 to Record Heights

by Brad Brevet
 

 
October 11, 2017

September 2017 saw record returns with calendar grosses topping $695 million, falling just shy of becoming the first September to ever total $700 million at the domestic box office. Leading the way was Warner Bros. and New Line's massive hit It, which delivered record numbers of its own and accounted for a massive 41.2% of the month's total gross. September is also the first month since April to show an improvement over the same month in 2016, with September grosses finishing 18.3% higher than 2016.

From a yearly stand point, 2017 was pacing 6.3% behind 2016 at the end of August and September grosses helped turn things around somewhat with 2017 pacing 4.6% behind 2016's record year by the end of the month. However, with October already pacing 20.8% behind last year (as of October 9) it's looking like September's gains will be lost throughout the current month, putting additional pressure on final two months of the year to turn the tide.

Overall, September 2017 saw calendar grosses reach $696.2 million, the largest September ever by almost $70 million over 2015's previous record gross of $626.4 million when Hotel Transylvania 2 broke the September opening weekend record with a $48.5 million debut. Of course, that record was shattered by It's $123.4 million opening, a record that was not only a September record, but a Fall opening weekend record and the second largest opening for an R-rated movie behind Deadpool's $132.4 million opening in February 2016.

Since its debut, It has gone on to become the highest grossing horror release ever, both domestically and internationally, so far pulling in over $605 million worldwide. To no surprise, WB and New Line have already set a September 6, 2019 release date for the sequel.

While the records are impressive, perhaps the most shocking aspect of It's performance is the fact it accounted for 41.2% of the month's total calendar gross. For some perspective, prior to It, the highest percentage of September's total gross was back in 1999 when The Sixth Sense accounted for 18.3% of the month's box office. While a percentage this high isn't an anomaly (The Avengers accounted for 52% of the overall gross in May back in 2012), the massive gap between 2017 and 1999 is the largest when looking at any other month. The story this tells, however, is tough to decipher. Whether it paints the majority of this past month's releases as disappointments or whether September is a new month that can now be groomed for blockbuster size features remains to be seen.

That being said, it goes without saying that Warner Bros. topped all other studios throughout September, bringing in over $355 million between five films, of which It accounted for over 80%. By a margin of more than $285 million, the month's runner-up was Lionsgate, also with five films, which combined for just $70.2 million. Lionsgate was led by the mid-September release of American Assassin, which brought in $30.9 million over the course of the month, just a bit ahead of Lionsgate's The Hitman's Bodyguard, which added $29.7 million to its $75 million gross in September after opening in mid-August.

Fox was the third highest grossing studio in September, brining in $65.7 million, led by the September release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle with $62.2 million, the second highest grossing title in September behind It. The sequel is currently pacing just behind the original which finished just shy of $130 million domestically and topped $414 million internationally. While it might not reach $100 million in North America, Golden Circle's overseas performance will be worth keeping an eye on with releases in France and Argentina scheduled for this week followed by China (Oct 20) and Japan (Jan 5). For some perspective, the first film generated nearly $100 million from France, China and Japan, though $75 million of that was from China, putting more pressure on that October 20 release.

The last film among September's top five grossing titles is Warner's The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which debuted with a disappointing $20.4 million and has since delivered $46.5 million after 19 days in release. Comparatively, this places it $140.5 million behind where The LEGO Movie was at after 19 days and almost $89 million behind The LEGO Batman Movie. The film carries a reported budget of $70 million and with the film's globally tally just over $82 million so far, and only three key releases in France, Italy and UK remaining, things are looking bleak for its overall returns.

Other standout disappointments from September include Darren Aronofsky's mother!, which performed well with critics but fell flat with audiences. The film debuted with just $7.5 million and became one of only 19 films to ever receive an "F" CinemaScore. Thus far, the $30 million production is knocking on the door of $40 million worldwide with openings in South Korea (10/19) and Japan (1/19) remaining.

Sony's Flatliners remake lived up to its title, debuting with just $6.5 million over the final weekend of the month. The $19 million production has so far amassed just over $19 million globally with releases in Mexico, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, Russia and Germany yet to come.

From a yearly perspective, Warner Bros. is now the highest grossing studio of 2017 with $1.599 billion as of the end of September, leap-frogging Disney, which held the lead coming into the month. Disney, however, had their lowest grossing September since 1985 with just $4.2 million from three films. The reason being, Disney hasn't released a movie since June 16, when Cars 3 hit theaters, and their upcoming slate suggests they've written off releasing films in the months of September and October going forward. Disney's next release is Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, followed by Pixar's Coco and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

As for the rest of October, the month got off to a rather disappointing start this past weekend with WB's Blade Runner 2049 delivering just $32.7 million. Of the month's new releases, the $150 million project was expected to bring in anywhere from $45-55 million over its opening three-days and lead the way over the course of the month. While it will still likely remain the month's highest grossing release, the amount it will finish with is greatly diminished.

Otherwise, given this is October, a selection of scary films are finding their way into theaters and one such film is this coming weekend's Happy Death Day, the third original film from Blumhouse this year following Split and Get Out, both of which delivered stellar numbers. Expectations for Happy Death Day are a little more modest, but then again, neither Split nor Get Out were expected to perform as they did. Additionally, Universal will deliver thrills with the adaptation of Jo Nesbo's The Snowman the same weekend Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween hopes to keep pace with the $28.5 million opening the first one delivered only a year ago. And the month will close out with Lionsgate's eighth entry into the Saw franchise with Jigsaw, hoping audiences have a little more interest left in the tank.

Finally, a rather small selection of films closed out their domestic runs in September. Below is a list of selected titles ordered by cumulative gross:

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