It’s a good time for Stephen King adaptations. In the past the author’s work has been the subject of horrendous TV movies and mini-series, but now it is getting the big screen treatment with new adaptations contributing to the horror renaissance. Just this year, Pet Sematary got a new theatrical adaptation along with IT Chapter Two, which is currently dominating the box office. Still to come are the Netflix film In the Tall Grass and Doctor Sleep, the theatrical sequel to The Shining.
Doctor Sleep doesn’t arrive in theaters until November but we now know how much the film could make in its opening weekend. The long-range tracking is in and Doctor Sleep is being forecasted to open between $20-$30 million, with Box Office Pro predicting a more specific $25 million debut. Although the forecast can change in either direction as we get closer to release date, that would be a strong opening weekend for the Shining sequel and one of the better openings for a Stephen King adaptation.
For comparison, Pet Sematary opened to $24.5 million earlier this year, making it the third-best opening for a Stephen King theatrical adaptation behind IT’s $123.4 million and IT Chapter Two’s $91 million. So, if Doctor Sleep debuts to $25 million or better, it will slot into third on that list and even on the low end of that range it would still best stuff like 1408, The Green Mile and The Dark Tower.
Other than IT Chapter Two, the biggest horror debut in 2019 belongs to Us, with $71.1 million. Doctor Sleep isn’t tracking anywhere near that, but it is tracking in the range as some of the other horror this year, like The Curse of La Llorona’s $26.3 million and Annabelle Comes Home’s $20.2 million, with the possibility to become one of the best horror openings this year outside of the top two.
As far as the end game goes, Doctor Sleep could even end its domestic run with $92 million, which wouldn’t be too shabby as far as R-rated horror is concerned. Doctor Sleep has a few things going for it. The Shining is a true horror classic and Doctor Sleep will have the benefit of that pedigree as the sequel to that film.
Additionally, Doctor Sleep stars the ever-popular Ewan McGregor and it hails from writer-director Mike Flanagan who previously knocked it out of the park on Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and another Stephen King adaptation Gerald’s Game. That could bode well for the quality of the film itself and social and trailer trends indicate Doctor Sleep could be a hit if the quality is there.
On the competition front, Doctor Sleep debuts in a busy weekend, but one it should win based on tracking, unless Terminator: Dark Fate breaks out huge the week before. The Emilia Clarke-Henry Golding romantic comedy Last Christmas is forecasted to open between $12-$17 million, although I suspect that one could easily outperform that. Roland Emmerich’s Midway is looking to open with $10-$15 million, with the John Cena flick Playing with Fire rounding things out with $7-$12 million.
There are also not a ton of major adult horror films hitting in October. Instead, there's the kid-friendly The Addams Family and the comedic Zombieland: Double Tap hitting the bill during the traditional horror month, after which the Stephen King property will drop in November. Thus, there could be a built-up desire for scares by the time Doctor Sleep hits.
The potential pitfall for Doctor Sleep is younger audience awareness of either The Shining film or Stephen King’s novels. Somewhat younger audiences can drive horror hits, but whether they are familiar with a 1980 film and even a classic such as The Shining is the question -- although Ready Player One may have helped that somewhat. The trailers have established that link at least for those who are familiar, although I can’t help but wonder if that connection should have been more explicit just from a marketing standpoint, like calling it The Shining: Doctor Sleep.
We'll get a better idea of how things are looking once we get closer to the film's release date. Doctor Sleep shines on theater screens starting on November 8. Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of all the other big movies coming this fall.