Even with the massive opening projected for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the 2017 domestic box office is expected to fall short of 2016's tally. It's been an up-and-down year for movies, which hit a low point over the summer with several films either underperforming or totally hitting the wall at the box office.
True, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming were all smashes (with Wonder Woman taking the summer crown domestically), but big budget movies like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Mummy, Transformers: The Last Knight and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets were not, at least in relation to the amount of money it cost to produce them. When all was said and done, the 2017 summer movie box office was the lowest Hollywood experienced since 2006.
And while the surprise mega-blockbuster Stephen King's IT and Marvel's latest superhero extravaganza Thor: Ragnarok rocked the box office in the fall to give Hollywood's bottom line a much-needed shot in the arm, the success of those films was counterbalanced by the underwhelming performances of films like Blade Runner 2049 and Justice League. And now, it appears that even with the healthy numbers The Last Jedi is promising to pull in when the film opens in theaters December 15, business will be down from 2016.
Looking at numbers through November 27, Variety says that $9.72 billion has been earned at the domestic box office this year, which is down 4.3 percent from last year's numbers in the same time frame. By the time 2016 came to a close, the box office stateside earned $11.4 billion, which was up from 2015's tally of $11.1 billion.
With only two specialty releases in James Franco's The Disaster Artist and Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel kicking off December at the domestic box office, Hollywood is no doubt going to have to make up a lot of ground in its final month of the year. Analysts expect the biggest saving grace to be The Last Jedi, which is tracking to make north of $200 million in its opening frame.
With that ray of light (saber) aside, Variety says films domestically will have to collectively make $1.7 billion to reach last year's plateau. Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with comScore, tells the publication that to accomplish such a feat, "there would have to be unprecedented levels of business" for the rest of the year, and says a figure more like $1.3 billion "is doable." If that ends up being the case, then 2017's domestic box office would be down 2 percent from 2016.
There's no easy answer for what has to be done to cure Hollywood's box office ills next year, since many of its releases are already in production. But moving forward, perhaps studios can take a page from such hits as Get Out, IT and Annabelle: Creation, which earned hundreds of millions of dollars without any huge marquee stars in the leads. True, all were horror films, which generally come with a built-in audience in their opening weekends, but expert storytelling and creative filmmaking – not stars – clearly mattered more for the films when it came to films' staying power and as a result, scaring up a huge bottom line.
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