Ticket sales at the U.S. box office in October 2017 reached the lowest total for the month in a decade. Hollywood’s domestic box office run in 2017 has been something of a roller coaster ride, following what was a strong start to the year thanks to blockbusters like Beauty and the Beast, as well as word-of-mouth hits Split and Get Out. Things then cooled off decidedly after a string of sequels and would-be franchise launchers performed below expectations and failed to connect with audiences stateside (see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Baywatch, The Mummy, and so forth). As a result, the summer 2017 box office was the lowest in more than a decade.
Things changed last month when IT hit the scene, successfully tapping into the pop culture zeitgeist and leading the charge on what turned out to be a record-setting September box office, aided by such hits as Kingsman: The Golden Circle and modest commercial successes like American Made. Unfortunately, things have since cooled off again due to a series of October releases that have failed to breakout at the domestic box office, despite many of them also being critical darlings.
THR reports that October ticket sales in the U.S. reached $539.1 million by the end of last weekend, down more than 13 percent from the same period last year. With only two days left in the month, the total October 2017 box office is all but assured to fall short of $600 million. The last time that happened was ten years ago in 2007: a period in which the Saw sequel Saw IV and the Tyler Perry movie Why Did I Get Married? were among the bigger hits playing in theaters. As it were, the Saw sequel/revival Jigsaw and Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween are currently occupying the top two spots at the U.S. box office. (The more things change…)
Some of this month’s box office duds have also been widely derided by critics, including the disaster/sci-fi thriller Geostorm and director George Clooney’s dark satire Suburbicon. Others, however, have been by and large well-received by the film critic community, yet failed to draw in a sizable audience in theaters. In the cases of the Miles Teller-led true story dramas Only the Brave and Thank You for Your Service, that can be attributed to their serious and depressing topics, which don’t exactly lend themselves to fun, escapist entertainment. When it comes to this month’s sequel Blade Runner 2049, on the other hand, it’s more of a testament to the cult appeal of the Blade Runner universe and franchise as a whole.
The domestic box office will, without doubt, pick up over the final two months of 2017, thanks to much-hyped tentpoles like Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and of course Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Further aiding the effort will be the many awards season contenders expanding into more theaters over the weeks ahead, providing some nice counter-programming to 2017’s final slate of blockbusters. This year’s box office seems unlikely to match (much less exceed) the turnout for 2016 at this point, but at least 2017 looks to close on a high note and help set the stage for the film industry to rebound at the box office in 2018.
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