It’s no secret that the 2017 summer movie season has been pretty rough. Sure there was some gems to be found, but overall the summer box office wound up being the worst one in years. How bad was it you ask?
- The weekend of August 25-27 was the lowest grossing single weekend in 16 years. The worst? Well, that would be the weekend following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
- The Labor Day weekend was the worst holiday weekend in 17 years (though it should be noted that there was no new releases this weekend)
- One of the highest grossing releases on the Aug 25-27 weekend was actually a PPV fight that was shown in around 500 theaters.
- Attendance was so low that for the first time in recent memory, movie theaters actually lowered their prices. AMC sold $10 movie passes that entitled owners to see 1 free movie a day for a month. Cineplex (in Canada) lowered admission costs by nearly 25% for the last 2 weeks of August.
- The only movie to repeat three times at the top of the box office was The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and it has yet to break $60 million
- Movies that were guaranteed hits going into the summer season wound up being flops, and in a few cases some unfortunate records were set
- The last movies to be considered outright hits opened back on July 21 – over 6 weeks ago
Here are the highs and lows from the last 4 months…
SUPERHEROES – It has become common for superhero movies to hit it big, regardless of quality, so it should come as no surprise that the three biggest hits of the summer were all comic book films. The number one movie of the summer was Wonder Woman, which has almost salvaged the troubled DC universe movies. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was right on its heels, and the newly rebooted Spiderman in third. No other movie this summer even came close to matching the grosses of this trio.
BABY DRIVER – This Edgar Wright movie had a lot of interest, but no one really expected it to break $100 million. Luckily the good word of mouth started to spread and the movie became a huge hit
DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic was easily the highlight of the summer for many, and is probably the most likely Oscar candidate out of them all. When nominations are announced early next year, I would be shocked to not hear it mentioned.
ANNABELLE: CREATION – While not as huge a hit as every other movie mentioned so far, the Annabelle prequel improved on it’s predecessor in every possible way. Horror movies have had a spotty track record lately, but Annabelle seemed to please both critics and moviegoers – something that is very rare.
GIRLS TRIP – Comedies have had a very rough year, but this female led comedy caught on immediately and basically saved the last few weeks of summer. Expect a sequel to be announced very soon
THE BIG SICK – This small independent dramedy from producer Judd Apatow was the must-see art house movie of the season. It was nowhere near the high box office numbers of the blockbusters, but it still did remarkably well
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD – The only reason this action comedy makes the “Hit” list is because of lack of competition and sheer luck. This movie, along with Annabelle, basically carried the month of August. Since there was nothing else to watch, it “wins” by default
FRANCHISE FILMS – It seems moviegoers are starting to get tired of the same old thing. Surefire hits from franchises like Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean all failed to engage viewers and wound up earning substantially less than the previous installments in the franchise. Of course, it would have helped if the movies other than Apes (which was great) were actually any good
ANIMATION – In 2016, animated movies ruled the box office. This year, they were much less successful. The only ones to do well, Despicable Me 3 and Cars 3, still under-performed compared to the the other films in their series. The Emoji Movie was one of the worst reviewed movies of the year. The Nut Job 2 had the unfortunate distinction of earning the record for the lowest debut in over 4000 theaters.
FRANCHISE STARTERS – Future sequels were put in jeopardy as new movies hoping to start off new franchises crashed and burned out of the gate. The Mummy provided a very bad start to the Dark Universe. The Dark Tower was a complete mess and put the future of the series in jeopardy. Valerian was a massive flop and big blotch on Luc Besson‘s resume. King Arthur was a full on disaster and lost a ton of money for Warner Brothers.
COMEDIES – Other than the previously mentioned Girls Trip (and, to a lesser extent, Hitman’s Bodyguard) comedies just couldn’t capture people’s interest. Baywatch, The House, Rough Night and Snatched all tanked. Maybe Hollywood should go back to family comedies
BIOPICS – Movies based on real people and events didn’t prove to be of interest to many as high profile releases such as All Eyez on Me, Detroit, Birth of the Dragon and Megan Leavey all failed to live up to expectations. Eyez in particular was a surprise failure as many expected another Straight Outta Compton
IT COMES AT NIGHT – Horror movies can usually be counted on to open fairly well, even if they crash the following weekend. Going into its opening weekend, this had some of the best reviews for a horror film in recent memory. It didn’t seem to matter, however, as it failed immediately and the moviegoers who did watch it absolutely loathed it.
Hopefully the fall, with high profile releases such as IT and Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, will cause the box office to rebound. Maybe Hollywood should take a hint and stop making endless sequels to dying franchises. People seem to want excitement and new ideas, not the same old thing year after year.