Rather than moving to a “prime” blockbuster time frame, It: Chapter Two won’t fix what isn’t broken.
It’s been pretty clear for a while now that the time in which big-time franchise films get released has changed dramatically. In the past, all the would-be blockbusters would primarily stick to two time frames: the three months of summer (May, June, July) or the final two of the Holidays (November/December.) Sure, other films would open in dates outside of these months, but NONE of them would end up fitting into the $100 million opening weekend club or anything. They could be big, but never “blockbuster” big.
But as franchises have taken over the industry, space for all of them is running out in the traditional months, forcing studios to launch new ones in pretty different time frames. And, low and behold, that really didn’t slow down their box office successes. Guardians of the Galaxy made $330 million launching in August. Deadpool pulled in $360 million in February. Even non-franchise stuff like American Sniper managed to open to over $100 million back in January of 2014.
And, really, the release of It seems to have 100% confirmed something I’ve long suspected about modern blockbusters: the month doesn’t matter. You can launch any franchise at any point and, as long as people are interested, it can make $100 million in its first weekend of release. Hell, it might be BECAUSE you opened it in a non-traditional month that the film can rise to such heights. Coming out in a time with few genre event films can only really help your cause–if you are the only blockbuster in town, no one else is there to steal your thunder. You end up becoming THE event film of the month, just like It proved to be this September. But if It came out in, say, July, would it have opened to the eye-popping $123 million that it did? Would It have done nearly as well it if had to fight for scraps amongst all the other franchises, rather than standing entirely on its own?
Warner Bros. seems to have been asking these question themselves, especially when it comes to landing a release date for the film’s sequel. Because, even though a lot of franchises end up launching quite well in non-traditional blockbuster months, they rarely stay there after finding huge success. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out in May, rather than August. Deadpool 2 is coming out next June. John Wick: Chapter 3 has leveled up to Memorial Day 2019. Even something like Kingsman: The Golden Circle was originally going to compete in the summer fray before being pushed back to September (which worked out pretty well, may I add.) Yes, it really seems like a lot of these franchises will take advantage of slower months to launch themselves, but end up moving to the crowded seasons anyways.
Which makes Warner Bros’ decision to stick It: Chapter Two with a September 6, 2019 release date refreshing. It would have been easy to give the film a May or July release in the false idea that a bigger timeframe=bigger money, but it seems WB too realizes that It was a surprising anomaly. And in an attempt to repeat said anomaly, maybe changing what worked so well the first time would be something of a stupid move. It launched huge in September of 2017, so why shouldn’t its sequel do just as well in the same month two years later?
It also helps that the film will be facing pretty much no competition in that timeslot: the only other “big” movie set to release in that month so far is The Angry Birds Movie 2, which A) won’t be coming out until a few weeks later and B) is probably courting something of a different audience, me thinks. There’s technically a Blumhouse horror film set for release on the same day as It: Chapter Two, but I imagine that won’t stick for long. I doubt Universal will want a mother! situation on their hands here.
In any case, no matter how you slice it, this release date was a smart move on Warner’s part. Well the temptation to push every and all huge blockbusters into the summer might be strong, sticking to a time period with little competition is ultimately THE BEST move any studio can make when positioning its franchises. After all, It will probably go on to make more money than 90% of the other stuff released in the summer. You don’t mess with that kind of success, now do you?
Also published on Medium.