Summer Box Office Tracking to Miss $4 Billion Mark for First Time Since 2006

Summer Movie Box Office 2017
Gluekit for Variety

The summer box office is, indeed, in dire shape.

As the movie business heads into the final stretch of summertime, 2017 could be the first year in over a decade that the season’s domestic box office does not earn more than $4 billion, according to projections provided by comScore.

And chances are that mark will be missed by quite a bit. Current projections put the summer (which, on the theatrical calendar starts with the first Friday in May and ends on Labor Day Monday) at $3.78 billion. The last time numbers dipped so low was in 2006 when the summer earned $3.74 billion which, at the time, was a 6% increase from the year prior.

Not so for 2017, which is currently slumping 5.7% behind last year, and 14% behind for the summer. The month of August has been particularly slow. The biggest hits of the month are “Annabelle: Creation,” “The Dark Tower,” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” two of which have yet to make $50 million domestically. Meanwhile, “Suicide Squad” set records for the month of August in 2016, leaving the month this year pacing over 34% behind.

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Projections show the summer season slipping even further behind after next week as there are no new major releases — only “Tulip Fever,” a re-release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and several indie flicks entering the market in limited release. After Labor Day weekend, the summer is expected to finish 15.7% behind last year’s benchmark.

As sour as domestic ticket sales have been, international and global box office sales are both pacing higher than last year — the year to date through Aug. 27 is up 2.8% internationally and 0.2% worldwide. That’s in large part due to China. The Middle Kingdom’s release “Wolf Warrior II” alone has grossed over $800 million, and almost none of that was in North America.

Among the many factors that contribute to such a slow season is an apparent cooling of the public’s interest in studio sequels. Apart from superhero movies “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” — the latter of which earned more than the original — nearly every franchise film has underperformed. Some, like “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Transformers: The Last Knight,” slumped to new franchise lows. There were also several big-budget whiffs, most notably “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” which have both earned about $39 million at the domestic box office, or as much as indie darling “The Big Sick.”

While the domestic summer box office over the past few decades has trended up, there are peaks and troughs year to year. The record-holding summer remains 2013 with over $4.7 billion. The following summer, in 2014, fell off over 14% to just over $4 billion before shooting up 10% in 2015 to $4.5 billion. Still, the industry’s cyclical nature can’t fully explain away the simple fact that business this summer has been undoubtedly abysmal.

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  1. Sean Dube says:

    There is a wider release schedule that has higher earning movies outside of the summer months, and when you look at year to date numbers the industry is essentially flat. Last year was the highest grossing at this time in recent history, and this year is in the ballpark of every other year in recent history. There is no concern about the industry falling.

    The entertainment industry is an institution in the US economy and has been running with the same system pretty much since the start. Hollywood ain’t going anywhere.

    • Exactly Sean! Thanks for keeping the summer season in perspective. A 25 year low in ticket sales certainly isn’t good news. But the fact that Hollywood had a record spring and a near record winter means the 12 month year is in good shape.

  2. John says:

    The entertainment industry is deeply dysfunctional and insular. Its core people either sincerely don’t realize how dysfunctional they are, or they can’t agree with the criticisms because assent would involve passing judgment on themselves and their peers.

  3. Make better movies. So easy to say, apparently not to do

  4. frederick@dreamerchant.com says:

    The motion picture industry, composed of the studio system, does little to stop its financial hemorrhage; they merely acquire “partners” to share the risk on the front end and rely on “packaging” a gross number of productions for sell to streaming services on the back end.

    Film has increasingly become more a thing of commodity and less a thing of art, which sounds the death knell for motion pictures as Gen-X and the Baby Boomer understood photoplay as entertainment.

    If manufacturing the moving image is essentially “a money factory” then any hope of restoring what the industry once had to offer the public has now taken refuge in places other than the movie theater–where the cost of overhead has grown to the point of diminishing return.

  5. Iván el Conquistador says:

    Zero originality, constant insults to the audience and forced diversity are the reasons behind this.
    Want people to show up? Just focus on telling stories anyone can enjoy, just like Christopher Nolan did with Dunkirk and Edgar Wright did with Baby Driver.

  6. When TV shows such as Game Of Thrones are better than the same recycled crap that Hollywood Studios have been spewing out for the last 10 years and going to the movies is so expensive of course it is in a decline. Not to mention terrible scripts, I mean what is up with that???

  7. eddie willers says:

    What?!…..with all that diversity?!

  8. Johnny says:

    No American Patriot is going to support an industry that bashes our incredible president on a daily basis. I have seen DUNKIRK, which was fantastic, cast with unknown but incredibly gifted actors. The film has grossed over $400 million at the box office since its release. DUNKIRK is the only movie I will see in theaters this year and I know many people who are boycotting movie theaters. Hollywood is going to learn the hard way that we don’t want to hear their ridiculous political opinions, especially when they contradict themselves on a week to week basis.

    • Jk says:

      incredible president?, Johnny you are just dumb or blind or simply don’t want to realize what is clear, you have a bigot, self absorbed not good at all president, failing in every way, Hollywood doesn’t have anything to do with that. and don’t be so incongruous bashing the industry and reading and commenting every post in the industry bible

    • HBO President of Awesometown says:

      @Johnny…And yet you’re reading and commenting on a website dedicated to all things Hollywood.

      Get a life. Or juts go back to church where you’re tolerated.

  9. Pippy says:

    People complain about franchise fatigue, but when studios do actually make quality, original films for adults like DETROIT or ATOMIC BLONDE, nobody shows up.

    • jd says:

      Exactly. People will need to start putting their money with their mouths and paying to seeing films like those two. They are the same people who continually complain that nothing original is being made anymore and all that is being shown are sequels, prequels, remakes, etc but when push comes to shove and films like those two come out, they wont pay to see them. Thus the studios lose money on them and they stop making them.

    • Marie says:

      People showed up for Baby Driver.
      Just too many movies that came out. Not everyone has the movie to see every film that came out during those summer weekends.

  10. Well no crap, what did you expect?! The product (all these PG-13 movies) is crap nowadays. I’ve seen a grand total of one good movie this summer…Dunkirk. All we’re getting is comic book movies and sequels…all pre-packaged PG-13 junk. It’s turning people off who like actual films instead of teenage schlock. Where are the Pulp Fictions and Shawshank Redemptions of the world?

    With my HD-TV and any movie I want available to instantly download, why would I leave the house to watch the 10th incarnation of King Kong? Give me a great movie like Dunkirk and I’ll go to the theater. Give me a Roadshow like The Hateful Eight and I’ll go to the theater. King Kong vs Godzilla? I’ll pass, thanks.

    JD

  11. believe it or not, gen-xers and boomers would like to attend more movies–as they did when younger–but studios are not making films for people over, say, age 30 or so. when they do, attention-challenged, gadget controlled critics don’t approve. we now go to, maybe, one film each month. not too long ago, it was one each week. and that’s true for many of our friends.

  12. CC says:

    Karma for the hate.

  13. How did winter 2017 and spring 2017 rank historically? I believe winter 2017 was the 4th highest grossing of all time and spring was #1 of all time? Surely if theaters want Hollywood to release potential blockbusters every month of the year that will mean summer might diminish a bit while winter and spring grow. Isn’t 2017 overall still pegged to be perhaps the second highest grossing year of all time?

  14. harry georgatos says:

    Same old recycled junk in new expensive clothing that offers nothing new. People have caught the scent of the garbage that is coming out of the Hollywood studio system and are staying away. If a film has a level of excellence people will turn up and purchase a ticket. One can come up with all the excuses but at the end of the day 80% of films have a smelly odour with expensive ticket pricing have kept people away!

  15. angryasianman says:

    The liberals in Hollywood are racist against Asian-Americans, and they repeatedly give Asian roles to White actors/actresses. Also, Hollywood doesn’t have an ounce of originality as they continue to reboot and recycle every story and movie. As an Asian-American, I know I’m in the minority, but if Hollywood wants my money, they better start casting more Asians. Otherwise, to hell with them.

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