The Stephen King adaption "It" continues to scare up record ticket sales, taking in an estimated $60 million in its second week and leaving a paltry $7.5 million for Darren Aronofsky's audacious genre-bending psychological thriller "mother!"
New Line and Warner Bros.' "It" remained easily the top draw in North American theaters, according to studio estimates Sunday. It slid 51 percent from last week's unexpectedly sensational opening of $123 million, the first September release to debut north of $100 million. Most had expected "It" to open to about half that.
With $218.7 million to date, "It" is now the highest grossing September release ever, and a much-needed hit to follow a summer box office that slumped to a historically bad August. "It," starring Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown Pennywise, also added $60.3 million internationally.
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Paramount Pictures' "mother!" has horror elements, too, so it was risky to schedule it right behind "It." But Aronofsky's film is a more art-house proposition, made for about $30 million. For star Jennifer Lawrence, it's the worst wide-release opening of her career.
Reviews were generally good (68 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) for "mother!," which premiered last week at the Venice Film Festival. But the film — an intense, allegorical tale about a woman (Lawrence) whose rural Victorian house is overrun by unwanted house guests — is an undeniably atypical, auteur-driven studio release. Audiences didn't care for it, giving it a seldom-seen F CinemaScore.
"Admittedly, there are audiences who aren't responding as favorably, but I think it's one of those movies that's so different and so audacious," said Kyle Davies, president of domestic distribution for Paramount. "Darren's one of the most dynamic filmmakers out there today. So the movie is really getting a strong reaction and I think it takes people a while to process the movie."
Aronofsky, the filmmaker of "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler," previously helmed the Paramount 2014 release "Noah." The Bible epic sailed through controversy to make $362.6 million worldwide.
More than most of its rivals, Paramount has backed a number of daring films from acclaimed filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese's little-seen "Silence" and upcoming films from Alexander Payne ("Downsizing") and George Clooney ("Suburbicon") — both of which also debuted in Venice.
Whether that will continue after disappointing box-office results remains to be seen. In April, former Fox chief Jim Gianopulos took over as chairman and chief executive at Paramount after the departure of Brad Grey. Motion Picture Group President Marc Evans is also stepping down.
The counterterrorism thriller "American Assassin," from Lionsgate and CBS Films, edged out "mother!" for second place with $14.8 million. That was a solid result for the film starring Dylan O'Brien and Michael Keaton.
In limited release, the Mike White-directed comedy "Brad's Status," starring Ben Stiller, opened in four theaters with a good per-screen average of $25,045. Annapurna will expand the film in coming weeks.
One of the summer's box office weakly performing sequels also found a modicum of redemption. Two months after its North American release, Fox's "War for the Planet of the Apes" opened in China with $62.3 million. That marks not only the studio's best debut in China but also sends Matt Reeves' "Planet of the Apes" sequel toward a more gorilla-sized global haul of $432 million.