NEW YORK — The R-rated spy comedy Kingsman: The Golden Circle displaced horror sensation It as the No. 1 film, while the second Lego movie of the year didn't assemble the expected audience.
The Kingsman sequel led the weekend with a $39 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday. But It continues to pull in record crowds.
With $30 million for the weekend, the Stephen King adaptation is now the highest-grossing horror film of all time, not accounting for inflation, with $266.3 million thus far. (1973's The Exorcist grossed $232.9 million domestically, or more than $1 billion in 2017 dollars.)
The second Kingsman returned stars Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, while adding Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. Made more for audiences than critics, reviews for the gleefully distasteful spy romp were poor, at 51% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
But Kingsman improved upon the start of the first movie, "which opened on a holiday weekend," says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for 20th Century Fox. "We grew the franchise. We're very happy."
The Lego Ninjago Movie was further off expectations, making its debut in third with $21.2 million. Phil Lord and Chris Miller's The Lego Movie — the 2014 hit that made $469 million worldwide — kicked off a bustling franchise. Ninjago, though, is the second spinoff of the calendar year, following February's The Lego Batman Movie.
That release opened with $35 million and grossed $312 million in total — marks that it appears Ninjago will fall well short of. It may be two Lego movies in a year are too many.
"I was hoping we'd do more," says Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution head. "We know that each one of these Lego movies are different properties. This one played young."
In its second week, Darren Aronofsky's infamous psychological thriller mother! failed to turn the tide. The film became one of the few movies to receive a grade of F from audiences on CinemaScore. The horror parable, starring Jennifer Lawrence, slid to sixth place with $3.3 million, bringing its two-week haul to $13.4 million.
The box office also saw the first wave of fall awards contenders. The Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs drama Battle of the Sexes, with Emma Stone and Steve Carell; the Boston Marathon bombing survivor tale Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal; and the Queen Victoria drama Victoria & Abdul, starring Judi Dench, all made their debut in limited release.
Stronger grossed $1.7 million on 574 screens. Victoria & Abdul scored a per-theater average of $37,933 on four screens, along with a two-week international total of $12.4 million. And Battle of the Sexes earned $525,000 on 21 screens.
Theaters are suddenly flush again. The month of September is up 20%, according to comScore.
"The fact that we're sitting here in September on the verge of what looks like a record-breaking month, powered by the unprecedented success of It, tells you how quickly box-office fortunes can rise and fall in this marketplace," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.
Rounding out the top five: Dylan O'Brien's American Assassin, adapted from the Vince Flynn book, finished fourth with $6.3 million and Reese Witherspoon rom-com Home Again fell to fifth with $3.3 million.
Final numbers are expected Monday.
Contributing: Kim Willis
© 2018 Associated Press