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2017 Box Office Heading for Decline, Despite ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

The final number for the 2017 North American box office haul is probably going to decline by at least 2% from last year’s record-setting $11.4 billion — even with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” likely to be a blockbuster.

As of Nov. 27, the domestic total for the year was $9.72 billion, or 4.3% behind the same time frame a year ago, so the final five weeks of the year would have to generate $1.7 billion to match last year’s total. The final earnings will also probably fall short of 2015’s $11.1 billion.

“There would have to be unprecedented levels of business for the rest of the year to match last year’s total,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. “I’d say that $1.3 billion for the rest of the year is doable.”

That’s going to require strong openings from new films during the last three weeks of the year and solid holdover business since the studios have opted to pass on debuting any major titles for the next two weekends.

The Dec. 1 to Dec. 3 frame will see limited launches by Amazon for Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” which is opening in five locations; A24’s “The Disaster Artist,” starring and directed by James Franco; and Fox’s Searchlight’s Guillermo del Toro fantasy “The Shape of Water,” which is opening at two sites. It’s more of the same on Dec. 8, when Neon launches Margot Robbie’s “I, Tonya” in another limited release. Broad Green is debuting the action-comedy “Just Getting Started,” starring Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones, nationwide.

But in the meantime, the major studios are relying on holdover business this weekend. Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” led the way on Nov. 27 with $2.3 million to lift its six-day haul to $75 million; Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment’s “Justice League” has a 12-day cume of $177 million, and Lionsgate’s “Wonder” has finished its first week with about $73 million.

Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” will probably lead this weekend in the $25 million range in its second frame, followed by the third weekend of “Justice League” with around $17 million and the second session of Lionsgate’s “Wonder” at about $12 million. The fourth weekends of Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and Paramount’s “Daddy’s Home 2” will contend for fourth place with about $8 million each.

Moviegoing has been hampered by a slow summer season — the first in more than a decade to fall short of $4 billion — and a disappointing October. Gains in September (when “It” smashed records) and November have kept hopes alive for an $11 billion year.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has been tracking for a $200 million opening on Dec. 15 to Dec. 17, which would be the fourth-highest domestic launch of all time, behind “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at $248 million, 2015’s “Jurassic World” at $208.8 million, and 2012’s “The Avengers” at $207.4 million.

Other potentially strong end-of-the-year entries include Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and Fox’s Hugh Jackman musical “The Greatest Showman,” both opening on Dec. 20, and Universal’s “Pitch Perfect 3,” which launches two days later.

Should the industry make it to $11 billion by the end of the year, it will be only the third time that’s happened. Grosses hit $10.8 billion in 2012 and $10.9 billion in 2013, then slid to $10.4 billion in 2014.

“This year is not an end of days scenario, where people have stopped going to the movies,” Dergarabedian said. “But it has been a perplexing year with lots of unpredicability.”

The five-day Thanksgiving holiday box office gross totaled $270.4 million — the third-highest ever and a gain of 4% from same period last year — as “Coco” took in $71.2 million and “Justice League” followed with $60 million.

The final five weeks of last year saw $1.27 billion in domestic grosses as Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” ruled with $408 million. In 2015, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” blasted to $652.2 million by the end of the year on its way to a domestic record of $936.7 million, while overall business grossed $1.5 billion.

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