The “It” reboot’s smart, nostalgic bet on older audiences is paying off in spades

Adults are all about It.
Adults are all about It.
Image: Warner Bros.
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The It reboot shows that smart, scary movies for adults can still soar. The R-rated remake of the classic 1990 miniseries—based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name—floated to the top of the box office this weekend, thanks in part to its audience of nostalgic older adults.

With an estimated $123 million in returns in the US and Canada, It had the biggest opening weekend of the year for a movie geared at grown-ups. It also had the third largest opening overall, sandwiched between a slate of family-friendly films like Beauty and the BeastGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. That’s with Hurricane Irma shutting down about 175 theaters in Florida over the weekend.

Horror movies—even those with R ratings—tend to draw younger audiences who crave the adrenaline rush that comes from big scares. Recent successful flicks like Get Out and franchises like The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and The Purge skewed younger, with more than half of audience members under the age of 25. (In most of the US, moviegoers must be at least 17 to buy R-rated movie tickets; younger viewers can be admitted with a parent or guardian.)

The opposite was true for It. ”Generally, horror films draw younger moviegoers,” Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst at ComScore, told Quartz. “But It was able to bridge the horror movie generation gap.” (Solid reviews and a dismal summer movie slate also didn’t hurt.)

Box Office Mojo estimates that as much as 65% of It’s opening-weekend audience was aged 25 and up. The movie, about a group of kids who band together to defeat evil in their small town, called back to its roots to pull in both older and younger crowds, channeling the previous TV miniseries and King’s original novel. Studio Warner Bros. also promoted the movie by releasing an 8-bit video game and opening a haunted house in Los Angeles—a popular way of promoting horror flicks in the 1980s and 1990s.

Some of the summer’s best breakout movies, like Baby Driver and Dunkirk, also pulled in older or underserved crowds. Adults 25 and up made up about 64% of all US moviegoers last year and were responsible for 60% of tickets sold, according to data from the Motion Picture Association of America (pdf). These groups also comprise 57% of frequent moviegoers in the US.