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Is IT Really The Highest-Grossing Horror Film of All-Time?

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Reports have been suggesting that IT is now the highest-grossing horror film of all time - both domestically and worldwide - but that isn't actually the case. Andy Muschietti's Stephen King adaptation has been an absolute box office smash, with a record-breaking opening weekend and incredibly strong legs that have turned around what's been an otherwise disappointing year for Hollywood.

Last weekend it was reported that the film was now the highest-grossing horror film ever domestically and, now it's hit $500 million, Warner Bros. officially announced it had become the biggest earner worldwide too, in both cases passing 44-year record-holder The Exorcist which made $232M/$441M in the US/worldwide across its various theatrical runs. IT's present $278M/$505M is obviously more than that, although declaring it the box office champ misses out another movie.

Related: Why IT Succeeded Where The Dark Tower Failed

IT still falls short of M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, which netted $293M domestically and $672M worldwide (per Box Office Mojo) upon its initial release in 1999; Pennywise has obviously not matched either of those amounts. The film likely will likely pass the US total this weekend, but is still a few weeks out from hitting the massive global take, meaning we can't quite call IT the biggest horror movie of all-time just yet.

There is, of course, some ambiguity to the definition of horror films. The Exorcist most certainly fits, but some would call Shyamalan's breakout more of a thriller with traditional genre elements than an outright horror. This is further muddied by tricky classification. Box Office Mojo, which is typically used to reference gross numbers, doesn't have a single horror section but splits it by type - supernatural, slasher, R-rated etc. - that makes cross-referencing and distillation harder. Working through this is all the trickier as it's very rare for horror movies of any vague description to go this big, meaning the industry rarely has to clarify.

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There may be a more posturing reason for this confusion, however. IT passing The Exorcist was announced by Warner Bros. themselves, who not only has an investment in the new film's success, but also the classic one's legacy; they distributed The Exorcist, whereas The Sixth Sense came from Buena Vista (a subsidiary of Disney). As the latter is disregardable (due to the loose genre parameters), the studio seems to be trying to own the narrative and make it a case of two of their own films sharing the praise; IT for breaking the record, but also The Exorcist for holding it for so long.

Related: Hollywood’s Box Office Problems Are Its Own Fault

Within this discussion, there's also the factor of inflation. IT beats The Exorcist (and will The Sixth Sense) in terms of unadjusted gross, but taking into account inflation it doesn't come close; in 2017 dollars, The Exorcist made $1.3 billion domestically and $2.4 billion worldwide - numbers IT can't even come close to a fraction of. The Sixth Sense too made $432.5M/$991.5 in today's money. Of course, this is true of all box office analysis and is an accepted skew of the numbers - otherwise, Gone With The Wind would be the highest-grossing film for all eternity.

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However, while this means IT hasn't quite hit the status it's said to yet, that shouldn't take away from its achievements, either as a cultural hit or a strong adaptation. The big question now is if Chapter 2 can do even better.

Next: IT 2: Actors Who Should Play The Adult Losers In The Sequel

Source: Box Office Mojo

Key Release Dates
  • IT Chapter Two (2019) release date: Sep 06, 2019
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