The 2017 summer season has come to a close, and it was certainly a dim one at the box office, as reports are coming in that this summer will see the sharpest decline from season to season in modern times.
This summer movie season excelled critically, particularly in a stretch from June to mid-July that saw the release of a bundle of high-profile films that received widespread praise and acclaim. In subsequent weeks, audiences were treated to the thrills and entertainment of Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Dunkirk. That’s not even counting other smaller outings like The Big Sick and A Ghost Story, making a lot of people wonder if this is one of the best summers for movies in terms of quality. Good reviews and critical success don’t always translate into financial viability, however, and this summer was full of underachievement across the board that lead to very poor numbers for Hollywood moneymakers.
THR has released an article that puts the negativity into perspective, and the numbers are truly abysmal. According to comScore projections, this summer’s overall total will come in around $3.57 billion, which is down a startling 15.7 percent from 2016. This is easily the steepest summer to summer drop in the modern era, topping 2014’s decline of 14.6 percent. In terms of tickets sold, this will be the lowest total in 25 years.
As with any scenario such as this, there are exceptions. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dunkirk, and Annabelle: Creation all met or exceeded the expectations set for them. But for every one of these successes, there were two massive underachievers like Alien: Covenant and The Mummy, both of which fell well short of pre-summer projections. Even movies that are being considered somewhat successes, like War For the Planet of the Apes and Despicable Me 3, didn’t make the money that was needed to boost the overall total.
There are also the movies that are clearly now being made with international box offices in mind, like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Transformers: The Last Knight. Two mighty franchises that were once juggernauts in the United States posted franchise lows while still making a considerable chunk of change in other countries. The season was also heavily loaded in the middle; in past months of August, major movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and even Straight Outta Compton or The Help have been around to clean up against weak competition. With almost no major titles besides the floundering The Dark Tower, this was the worst August in a long time.
There’s a lot to dissect here, and plenty that can be written in analysis. For one thing, these numbers also fail to account that studios are starting summer as early as March this year, with massive releases like Beauty and the Beast and The Fate of the Furious doing damage before the official season even begins. Spreading these films out may deflate the numbers compared to other summers. What’s also interesting is that a lot of the same franchises from the previous steepest drop are returning, as Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers, Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes all had outings in that weaker 2014 summer. It speaks that the numbers continue to decline that audiences seem to be demanding less sequels and more originality, even if that means just a female-led superhero flick or a big budget summer war film.
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