Summer Box Office Officially Worst in Over a Decade

Summer Movie Box Office 2017
Gluekit for Variety

It’s official: The summer box office is the worst the movie industry has seen in more than a decade.

That’s without adjusting for inflation, or taking into account the rising cost of ticket sales. To make it very clear, a concerningly low number of people in North America went to the movie theater this summer. Big-budget flops and underperforming sequels were the main culprits as the summer season has finished with $3.8 billion in domestic ticket sales, according to data provided by comScore.

It’s a 14.6% drop from last summer, or one of the steepest declines in recent history. To find a summer season that earned less than 2017, one would have to look back to 2006 when the season posted $3.7 billion in grosses.

The horrific summer puts the year overall 6.5% behind 2016. That’s due to a winter and spring season that posted strong numbers thanks to record-breakers including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Fate of the Furious,” and breakout hits, notably “Get Out.”

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That’s also not to say that this summer hasn’t had some wins. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” kicked off the month of May with a stronger start than the first installment. “Wonder Woman” showed that a female-centered superhero story was long overdue. And “Spider-Man: Homecoming” served up a young, fun, and ultimately profitable take on what could have seemed like an overdone property. Notice anything in common between those three films? There were less super, but still heroic entries as well, including Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” But those are the exceptions.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” was the first and probably biggest flop for its price tag — but it certainly wasn’t the last. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” “Baywatch,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” “The Mummy,” and “Transformers 5” were among the season’s underperformers in North America.

“The Dark Tower” signaled that the month of August into Labor Day weekend would be especially brutal. The recent holiday weekend earned $96.2 over four days, which is mostly chalked up to the fact that it was the first Labor Day since 1992 without any new movies in wide release.

After a cataclysmic summer, the studios are looking ahead to the final few months of the year, which will hopefully prove more fruitful. Up first is “It,” the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s popular book. The R-rated remake is expected to earn $60 million, or more, which would certainly be refreshing.

Further down the release schedule there are at least a few more potentially monster openings, including “Blade Runner 2049,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Justice League,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Yes, all the aforementioned titles are reboots or part of a major franchise. Yes, that’s precisely what summer ticket sales indicate audiences are tired of. So, like all good stories, to find out how this year ends we’ll all have to wait — the industry will be on the edge of its collective seat.

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  1. JOHN COX says:

    It’s no surprise that box office sales are down. With at least half of the country listening daily to Hollywood bash the president for everything in a very irreverent way, and make a fortune doing it, many of us are boycotting movies for no other reason than we can’t stand the tone. No respect for the office if they don’t win in no way for democracy to work.

  2. Walt & Judy Rockey says:

    Could low box office sales be partly attributed to tirades from Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, and the others like them? Hmmmmm?

  3. I want to be entertained not indoctrinated, keep the politics out, it’s called escapism, I want to get away from all of this, not have it jammed down my throat for ten dollars a ticket, and bring back the pre movie cartoons, 30 minutes straight of commercials just ain’t cool.

  4. Tom Jasendro says:

    It’s pretty simple to me. People are getting sick of two things: the poor quality of most blockbuster movies these days, and then getting charged exorbitant amounts to see them. In my opinion, the worst period for summer blockbusters was in the late 90s, where almost every major movie was bad. The past 5 years are coming in at a close second. People are tired of seeing endless shitty remakes, reboots, reimaginings, sequels, prequels, spin-offs and other generic soulless cash-grabs. Yeah, a lot of these movies make big money, but that’s changing. This year was the first time that bad movies were punished with low box office yields. A lot of the good movies (or at least sort of good, like “Beauty and the Beast”) were high-grossing, which I was happy about. A lot of the terrible movies (like “The Mummy”) were low-grossing, which I also think is a good sign. Finally people are voting with their wallets. Maybe Hollywood will learn that you expect quality. I just saw “It” and it was amazing – yes it was a blockbuster and yes it was an adaption, but it worked so well. Hopefully it makes a lot of money so the studios learn that we want more like that.

  5. KT Chong says:

    I missed The Dark Tower in my last comment. It got 16% at Rotten Tomatoes. So my point was still valid. Rotten movies are the reason why this summer has the worst box office in a decade.

    For the upcoming movies listed in the article:

    I predict the “It” remake will make good money at the box office, because It got 89% at Rotten Tomatoes. Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann (my two most trusted movie reviewers on YouTube) have reviewed the movie and raved about it. I know I will be in a cinema this week or weekend to see it.

    I do not kow what to expect from Blade Runner 2049. The director also directed Sicario and Arrival, which is a good sign. (BTW, nowadays a director could be more of a brandname/star than actors.) I will wait for the Rotten Tomatoes score on this one.

    Justice League is hard to say. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movies generally suck due to Zack Snyder’s direction. It was a huge mistake for Warner Bros to put him in charge of DCEU and not get rid of him soon enough. Of course, thank goodness Snyder has left the DCEU, and Joss Whedon has taken over the helm. However, Snyder has made so many mistakes, so many f-ups, that have long-lasting impact on the DCEU, and Whedon won’t be able to fix everything. The DCEU is basically a damaged franchise. IMO, the franchise has been losing audiences and fans over the course of Man of Steel -> Batman v Superman -> Suicide Squad. People have been getting more and more disappointed with the DCEU and losing interest in it. The DC brand has become tarnished as people recognize it as the franchise to avoid.

    Then Wonder Woman came out, and it has literally saved the franchise. Even in the Wonder Woman, the part that sucks is the Snyder’s portion of the movie, (i.e., the final battle, which is very Snyder’s in its execution, style and tone.) Fortunately, the direction for the rest of the movie (by Patty Jenkins) was so strong that the overall movie is able to overcome the horrible final battle.

    Now, if Justice League is a Zack Snyder movie, then I know I won’t see it. However, after Snyder left the DCEU, the movie has had reshoots and rewrite by Joss Whedon. Now I am going to wait and see what scores it will get at Rotten Tomatoeas.

    (BTW, I won’t see anything directed by Zack Snyder. He is horrible. Just look at all of the Rotten Tomatoes scores of his movies. I’ve seen most of his movies, and those low Rotten Tomatoes scores are correct.)

    Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi will likely get very good Rotten Tomatoes scores. Marvel Studios and LucasFilm have figured out the formula of making good movies. (Rather, both have strong leadership who knows how to hire talents and match the right talents to the right projects.) Ragnorok and The Last Jedi will break records at the box office. Ragnorok won’t make over $1 billon, (unless it gets over 90% at Rotten Tomatoes,) but The Last Jedi will.

  6. KT Chong says:

    According to the article:

    THE WINNERS: Beauty and the Beast (71% Fresh). The Fate of the Furious (66%). Get Out (99%). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (81%). Wonder Woman (92%). Spider-Man: Homecoming (92%). Dunkirk (93%).

    Do you notice what all those winning movies have in common?

    All of them are good or decent movies. All of them got at least 60% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Five out of the seven got over 80%. Over half of them (four) got over 90%.

    On the other hand,

    THE LOSERS: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (28% Rotten), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (51%), Baywatch (18%), Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (30%), The Mummy (16%), Transformers 5 (15%).

    And what do all those loser movies have in common?

    All of them are awful or bad movies. All of them except one got below 50% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Most got below 30%, which are pathetic scores. Valerian is the only exception… it got at 51% at Rotten Tomatoes. 51% is still a failing grade by most standards.

    So, we should rejoice. This summer, consumers rewarded good movies and penalized bad movies. This summer has a record number of bad movies in a decade, which is why the box office is also the worst in a decade. Actually, I think this summer has the most number of bad movies, ever. I had never seen a summer with so many rotten movies in my lifetime. This summer set a record for having so many bad movies.

    I bet if Variety break down all the movies this summer, and separate the movies into two categories: the good movies vs. the bad movies, based on their Rotten Tomatoes scores and other scoring methods, then we will see that the good movies have done well at the box office; likely even better than the good movies from last year and the years before. The movies that bombed at the box office are only the bad ones, and they totally deserved to bomb. Bad movies really should not make money, so studios will stop making more bad movies in the future.

    And please, enough with the Pirates and Transformers sequels already. Why is Hollywood keeps making them when each one made less money than the last one – and, the quality of those two franchises have gotten worse and worse??

    • John says:

      What a dork KT Chong – are you a critic? Critics have never written, directed, produced, or acted in a film – so until you do keep your fat lips closed – thanks

  7. Jamie says:

    It doesn’t help that the bulk of the rerun flops were aimed at an age that can’t see them multiple times due to insanely high ticket & concession prices. How many families do you know who can shell out $25 – $100 for two hours at the move.

  8. Mike says:

    “…“Blade Runner 2049,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Justice League,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Yes, all the aforementioned titles are reboots or part of a major franchise. Yes, that’s precisely what summer ticket sales indicate audiences are tired of.”

    Is that really what summer ticket sales precisely indicated? The success of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, and Dunkirk prove that people are definitely not tired of major franchise movies and reboots (they just have to be…you know…good).

    The only “Major franchise” movie in your list would be Transformers. Pirates of the Caribbean really isn’t, but we’ll go ahead and include it just for fun. Transformers movies have always been mediocre and the last Transformers movie that came out was badly received (the same applies to Pirates of the Caribbean). No one expected those to be smash hits. As for Baywatch, The Mummy, and King Arthur… they flopped because they were just badly made movies with terrible scripts, bad direction and were miscasted- but not because they were reboots. Valerian and the City of 1000 planets is barely a sequel, so it doesn’t even apply, though I believe it was well received, but definitely not considered a flop.

    Marvel and Star Wars movies are virtually always great and people love them! The new Blade Runner has Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling – it’s hard to go wrong with those two! The only suspect I see is Justice League and that’s only because DC has been focused on trying to imitate Marvels success instead of making quality movies… though, if Wonder Woman is any proof, then they may have learned.

    In the end, a good movie is a good movie regardless of the story it tells… Other than that, being a reboot or part of a franchise are just a couple of the MANY excuses people use to complain about disliking a movie. Ironically enough, the majority of those who complain about the franchise movies and reboots are the ones who don’t even watch them!

  9. Phillip Ayling says:

    Hollywood is trying to serve too many masters and that won’t change. Chasing the worldwide box office with expensive franchises is understandable for business reasons. However, in the process, Hollywood now makes fewer films that are original or ‘must see’ for North American audiences.

    TV and New Media programs are increasingly doing that.They are primarily focused on telling stories. They spend less time thinking about how to modify characters and content so that their show will play better in China, India,Russia and elsewhere,

  10. Marci Fiore says:

    Between the big screen and television, it could easily be said that 2017 is the year for entertainment. The only problem is that nearly 40+ of this year’s releases were either remakes or sequels. What happened to the originality in Hollywood? Well, look no further. Award-winning screenwriter Ben Fiore brings original ideas to the table, including the Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition’s winning screenplay, “Condemned.” This short thriller follows an innocent man wrongly convicted of murder, being sent to the electric chair. The guilty man, now free of his crime, experiences his every fear and emotion until poetic justice intervenes.

    Making the top finals in the Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition’s feature-length category, “Blood and Loyalty” follows a botched jewelry store hold-up, a fatal hit-and-run getaway and an ironic twist of fate that shatters the lives of two delinquent brothers. This screenplay also placed in the semi-finals of the 2015 Story Pros International Screenplay Competition.

    From thrillers like, “A Million Dollars and a Machine Gun,” to modern-day Western dramas like, “The Sunrise Man,” Ben’s screenplays offer a wide range of genres, all ready to hit the big screen. For more info on these screenplays and to contact Ben, please visit his site at: http://benfiore.us/page1

  11. Glenn says:

    Hollywood used to produce stories for the sake of stories (see the American cinema of the 70s) and churn out art regularly. They are now pigeon-holing movies to the most likely denominator and stacking the films to play out to their strengths on weekends (e.g., stack a rom-com for women against an action tentpole). Now studios are cramming crap in to sell globally as well as cutting things for fear of offending other cultures (see how Asia-friendly Mission Impossible 5 was), and at the end of the days, compelling stories have migrated to TV. America should be promoting good stories and let the rest of the world follow, if we try to use focus groups to catch lightning in a bottle, you get Matt Damon in the Wall.

  12. skabak says:

    Because of a crop of mediocre films that crammed the theaters this summer, more and more people stayed at home, to binge and see far more interesting projects. Wonder Woman got people into the seats of theaters. Crummy movies kept them out. Audiences are smart, and if they want a night at the movies including dinners to be worth while for the $75.00 to $100.00 they spend, they want good movies that aren’t so formulaic. A tough call for studio executives to make, and as William Goldman said so long ago, “nobody knows.”

  13. Rosita says:

    Waiting on Jurassic Giants by Pragmatic games – think Dan from Video Slots said getting it on 26/25th July?

    I’m hoping for a more humane version of Raging Rhino

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