Hollywood and theater owners are collectively breathing a sigh of relief after September revenue reached record highs in North America, following a wretched summer.
The recovery is thanks in large measure to New Line and Warner Bros.' It. To date, the horror blockbuster has grossed $291.2 million domestically, becoming the first September title in history to cross $200 million, much less approach $300 million. The previous record-holder was Hotel Transylvania 2 ($169.7 million).
Domestic revenue between Sept. 1-30 clocked in at an estimated $700 million or more, up a hefty 19 percent from September 2016 ($616 million) and 14 percent from the previous record set in 2014 ($616 million), according to preliminary estimates from comScore.
It continued to defy expectations over the weekend. In its fourth outing, the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel is estimated to have narrowly edged out American Made — headlined by one of the biggest stars in the world, Tom Cruise — and holdover Kingsman: The Golden Circle. (The final order will be determined Monday morning.)
After It, the Kingsman sequel from 20th Century Fox is the second-biggest September earner in North America with $66.7 million to date.
When summer revenue plummeted 14.6 percent to $3.83 billion, gains made earlier in the year were reversed, leaving 2017 domestic revenue lagging. Now, that gap is closing. (The international box office is up year-to-date by nearly 2 percent.)
"On Labor Day Monday, the year-over-year deficit was 6.5 percent domestically. Now it is 4.7 percent. That's what a record September can do for you," says comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
The question now is whether the box office can recover enough to match last year's record $11.4 billion in domestic revenue.
Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners says the fourth quarter will need to be up by about 12 percent from last year for 2017 to end on par with 2016. "I think that depends on how big Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to be, while Justice League and Coco need to deliver. A strong opening for Blade Runner 2049 would help, too," he continues.
Other event films set to open between now and the new year include Thor: Ragnarok, Murder on the Orient Express and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.