‘Kong: Skull Island,’ ‘Logan’ and Why March Is Kicking Off Summer Blockbuster Season

Kong: Skull Island” and “Logan” are powering the March box office to record numbers and serving as a potent reminder that blockbuster movies aren’t exclusively reserved for the summer. Ever since “The Hunger Games” opened to $152.5 million in 2013, studios have been pushing bigger and bigger movies earlier into the year. Last March hosted “Zootopia” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” an animated adventure and a comic book mashup that never would have opened before Memorial Day in years past. But their backers were rewarded for their calendar flexibility with a combined global gross of nearly $1.9 billion.

“The movie defines the month, the month doesn’t define the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “March has become a monster.”

So far, 2017’s version of March is indeed a leviathan. “Logankicked off the month with a massive $88.4 million debut, and “Kong: Skull Island” kept cash registers humming with an impressive $61 million bow. The coming weeks will field the releases of “The Power Rangers,” a reboot of the popular children’s TV show, and “The Ghost in the Shell,” a manga adaptation with Scarlett Johansson as a spandex-suited cyborg. That’s to say nothing of “Beauty and the Beast,” a live-action Disney fantasy that is expected to debut to $120 million.

“Momentum is so important in the movie business,” said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment. “When you have a couple of movies in a row that work, there’s a surge effect that takes place.”

Foster believes that one good moviegoing experience begets another — consumers’ appetite for big screen diversions is whetted by a fun night out at theaters and their interest is piqued when they see trailers and posters for other upcoming movies.

Whatever is motivating the boom time for multiplexes, the March box office has a good chance of matching or even eclipsing last year’s record-breaking $948.8 million in domestic ticket sales. That was led by the $255.9 million that “Zootopia” earned within the month and the $209.1 million that “Batman v Superman” made during the period.

Through Sunday, ticket sales have already reached $436.5 million with more than half of the month left to go. That means that this March could be the first billion dollar grosser in history.

“This feels like early summer,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “To have a spring month capable of supporting this many big blockbusters is pretty impressive…it’s going to change the release paradigm.”

In many respects, the paradigm has already shattered. Gone are the days where Memorial Day signaled the true start of summer movie season. Of course, the lines have been blurring for awhile. In 1996, Warner Bros. helped usher in a more capacious definition of summer by debuting “Twister” on May 10 — a decision that flew in the face of conventional wisdom that suggested that it was too early in the year for moviegoers to surrender themselves to lighter, airier crowd-pleasers. It was Universal that further extended the boundaries of popcorn season by opting to release several “Fast and Furious” sequels in the month of April, starting in 2009. Vin Diesel and company will be back to their drag racing ways on April 14 when “The Fate of the Furious” opens in theaters.

There are business reasons the pace of change needs to accelerate. Studios are moving away from the types of mid-budget comedies and dramas that used to routinely pop up in the spring and fall. They’re making fewer movies, but placing bigger bets. The mania now is for pricey event films featuring King Kong or Wolverine, that can inspire a range of consumer products from toylines to video games. If these films are only released between May and June, they will cannibalize one another, creating an epic battle every weekend that leaves every studio badly bruised.

In this climate, it makes sense that even with a chill in the air and snow on the ground, March signals the true start of summer for the movie business.

More Film

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

  • Bruce Dern

    Film News Roundup: Bruce Dern's 'The Lears' Bought by Vertical for February Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release. ACQUISITIONS Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights from NeoClassics Films to “The Lears,” starring Bruce Dern in a modern-day [...]

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside Eric Carlson and Susan Carlson. Seth MacFarlane and Erica Huggins will produce [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content