Yesterday, Hollywood trade site Deadline published a story that announced “It Becoming Biggest Horror Pic Ever Beating The Exorcist,” noting that the domestic gross of It (as of today, $228.3 million) was breathing down the neck of that of The Exorcist ($232.9 million). Now, per Box Office Mojo, were The Exorcist’s gross adjusted for inflation (as it made the lion’s share of its haul during its initial box office run, which began in 1973), It would have a long way to go before catching up: The Exorcist’s gross amounts to $983.2 million in 2017 dollars.
But there’s a bigger problem with this argument, which has since been picked up by the likes of Complex, People, The Daily Mail, and Screen Rant: You’re gonna need a bigger definition of “horror.” These posts ignore Jaws, a good old-fashioned monster movie. Jaws was so effective in its scariness, in fact, it inspired a global revolt against sharks (“the Jaws effect”) that have left many species vulnerable to extinction. Jaws is a horror movie in its pacing, its music, its bloodletting, its freakin’ jaws. Jaws is a horror movie, it’s a horror movie, it’s a horror movie.
Jaws grossed $260 million domestically. It will undoubtedly surpass that, too (probably this weekend) and then can properly be regaled as the highest grossing horror movie of all time. When It is, though, please keep this in the back of your head, right near the spot that Pennywise occupies: Adjusted for inflation, Jaws’s domestic gross is $1.1 billion.