NOTE: Box office figures in this post are as of December 27, 2017
With 2017 winding down to a close, it’s time to take a look at some of the biggest stories that emerged at the box office this year. Over the past 12 months, a total of 719 films opened in theaters, all having varying degrees of success commercially. Collectively, the movies of 2017 were well below their 2016 counterparts, bringing in a total of $10.8 billion (as opposed to $11.3 billion last year). Numerous high-profile works came up short of expectations, which we’ll explore in this space later.
As always, there were a few noteworthy trends that were impossible to ignore, some of which could have longterm ramifications for the future of the film industry. Without further ado, let’s start to unpack these, beginning with one film Warner Bros. would like to forget.
Justice League Disappoints
The much-maligned DC Extended Universe has had a rollercoaster ride the past couple of years. Several of their installments have been very divisive from a critic/fan reception, yet despite the mixed reviews they all managed to be commercially successful. With Wonder Woman reigning supreme over the summer and earning widespread acclaim, many felt the franchise had reached a turning point. However, the arrival of Justice League seemed to prove otherwise, throwing the entire series into question in its immediate aftermath.
There’s no way of talking around this. Justice League underperformed dramatically, bringing in a DCEU-low $93.8 million in its opening weekend. With word-of-mouth as toxic as it’s ever been (the heavily publicized reshoots, poor VFX work, bland story/villain), things only went down from there. Unable to handle Pixar’s Coco, Justice League went on a downward spiral and currently stands at $223.9 million domestically. With more and more theaters dropping it, the ensemble piece will not be able to top the figures posted by Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (either in the States or worldwide). Projections suggest it will finish its run with under $675 million globally, meaning in the most superficial sense it will have hit the magic $600 million number it needed to be “profitable.” Despite that, most are in agreement the film was not a box office success – considering all of the factors.
Unlike Marvel’s The Avengers, Justice League failed to truly ignite the DCEU and make it a top tier franchise in Hollywood. Films like Aquaman, Shazam, and Wonder Woman 2 remain on the docket, but from an outsider’s perspective, there does not appear to be a plan in place for the future. There are doubts Ben Affleck will return as Batman, and a Justice League sequel has yet to be green lit (despite the obvious set up in the post-credits scene). For now, WB is sticking to their guns, but they cannot afford another result like this. The studio had banked on DC being their flagship property after the mainline Harry Potter series wrapped up, but they still have a long way to go.
Horror Movies Reign Supreme
While Justice League came up short, the horror genre had a banner year in 2017, with several of the latest genre entries drawing in large crowds. The clear winner was IT, which capitalized on a severe lack of mainstream competition and glowing reviews to rake in an astounding $327.4 million domestically. The Stephen King adaptation broke September records en route to setting a new all-time mark for horror movies as a whole. Unadjusted for inflation, it blew by The Exorcist ($232.9 million) to take the R-rated crown and eventually bested M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense ($293.5 million). It’s no surprise WB is moving forward with the sequel, which already has a release date.
IT was arguably the most high-profile success story, but it was definitely not alone. 2017 got off to a blazing start with a pair of well-received hits from Blumhouse: Split ($138.1 million) and Get Out ($175.4 million). The former marked the full return of Shyamalan as a filmmaker to watch, punctuated by a fantastic performance by James McAvoy and a jaw-dropping twist. The latter announced Jordan Peele as a unique voice in Hollywood, blending horror movie tropes with biting social satire to create an interesting and entertaining look at race relations in society. Seizing the zeitgeist, Get Out emerged as an unlikely Oscar contender when awards season revved up. Annabelle: Creation ($102 million) and even Happy Death Day ($55.6 million) were also profitable considering their production budgets.
Horror movies being cost-effective definitely had a factor in this, but there was something else that’s more important. The ones we mentioned in this section were all quality movies, earning mostly (and in some cases, unanimous) positive reviews, which helped their commercial appeal. Simply having a minuscule budget isn’t enough to do well financially. Jigsaw, the latest installment in the Saw franchise, seems like a hit at first glance ($102 million worldwide on a $10 million budget), but a deeper exploration proves otherwise. Because it was widely panned, the film was actually the second-lowest grossing film in the series, indicating interest in the brand is down. As the old saying goes, making good movies is the best way to generate revenue. It will be interesting to see if horror’s hot streak continues in 2018, but that reads as a safe bet.
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