The summer 2017 box office, widely seen as one of the most disappointing in recent memory, posted the lowest cumulative total since 2006. While there were hits like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman that had prolonged runs of dominance, the success of those films were offset by a number of would-be tentpoles that failed to leave an impression. Critical duds such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Mummy were non-starters, and even some acclaimed works like War for the Planet of the Apes struggled commercially. Things were made worse towards the end of the season, as the past two weeks had zero high-profile new releases.
Anticipated films including IT, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi should turn things around in the fall/winter, but the summer is typically when the studios look to make the most of their money. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case this year, and we now know just how bad things were for executives.
According to EW, summer 2017's total gross was $3.8 billion, which sounds like a lot of cash, but is actually a 14 percent decline from last year's and the worst figure in 11 years (unadjusted for inflation). It's difficult to pinpoint a specific reason for why this transpired, word-of-mouth probably had something to do with it. Several of the films that underperformed from May through August endured negative reviews, which hurt their financial prospects. For a while, properties like Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers were critic-proof, but this time U.S. audiences weren't enamored by what they had to offer. As a result, the future of some franchises could be in doubt.
Analysts were predicting summer 2017 would be a rough period from the beginning, so this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who's been following the development. Fortunately, this doesn't appear to be the start of a new trend that signals the death of cinema. Next summer sees the premieres of several eagerly-awaited blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War, Han Solo, Deadpool 2, The Incredibles 2, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. A problem with many of 2017's releases is that they weren't exactly in high-demand, but 2018 should be a different story. Sequel fatigue is an issue studios are going to have to deal with eventually, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and Pixar are reliable cash cows. Deadpool 2 is coming off the success of its record-breaking predecessor, so it too is poised for greatness.
If there's a lesson to be learned here, perhaps executives need to be a little more selective about what they green light. As stated earlier, critical reception played a sizable role in how most movies played at the box office. Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and the comedy Girls Trip were able to exceed expectations simply because of the reviews. When planning future slates, studios need to take what transpired in 2017 to heart so they can deliver projects that have widespread appeal and can entertain audiences, instead of having people question how something got made in the first place.