IT continues record-breaking streak at the box office

New York — The Stephen King adaption It continues to scare up record ticket sales, taking in an estimated $60m in its second week and leaving a paltry $7.5m for Darren Aronofsky's audacious genre-bending psychological thriller mother!

New Line and Warner Bros.' It remained easily the top draw in North American theatres, according to studio estimates Sunday. It slid 51% from last week's unexpectedly sensational opening of $123m, the first September release to debut north of $100m. Most had expected It to open to about half that.

With $218.7m to date, It is now the highest grossing September release ever, and a much-needed hit to follow a summer box office that slumped to a historically bad August. It, starring Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown Pennywise, also added $60.3m internationally.

Paramount Pictures' mother! has horror elements, too, so it was risky to schedule it right behind It. But Aronofsky's film is a more art-house proposition, made for about $30m. For star Jennifer Lawrence, it's the worst wide-release opening of her career.

Reviews were generally good (68 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) for mother!, which premiered last week at the Venice Film Festival. But the film — an intense, allegorical tale about a woman (Lawrence) whose rural Victorian house is overrun by unwanted house guests — is an undeniably atypical, auteur-driven studio release. Audiences didn't care for it, giving it a seldom-seen F CinemaScore.

"Admittedly, there are audiences who aren't responding as favourably, but I think it's one of those movies that's so different and so audacious," said Kyle Davies, president of domestic distribution for Paramount. "Darren's one of the most dynamic filmmakers out there today. So the movie is really getting a strong reaction and I think it takes people a while to process the movie."

Aronofsky, the filmmaker of Black Swan and The Wrestler, previously helmed the Paramount 2014 release Noah. The Bible epic sailed through controversy to make $362.6m worldwide.

More than most of its rivals, Paramount has backed a number of daring films from acclaimed filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese's little-seen Silence and upcoming films from Alexander Payne (Downsizing) and George Clooney (Suburbicon) — both of which also debuted in Venice.

Whether that will continue after disappointing box-office results remains to be seen. 

The counterterrorism thriller American Assassin, from Lionsgate and CBS Films, edged out mother! for second place with $14.8m. That was a solid result for the film starring Dylan O'Brien and Michael Keaton.

In limited release, the Mike White-directed comedy Brad's Status, starring Ben Stiller, opened in four theaters with a good per-screen average of $25,045. Annapurna will expand the film in coming weeks.

One of the summer's box office weakly performing sequels also found a modicum of redemption. Two months after its North American release, Fox's War for the Planet of the Apes opened in China with $62.3m. That marks not only the studio's best debut in China but also sends Matt Reeves' "Planet of the Apes" sequel toward a more gorilla-sized global haul of $432m.