There were plenty of winners and losers at the domestic box office this year since the overall 2017 number is still about 3% behind last year. Here we highlight the surprise successes — and the films that were originally intended to get franchises started but didn’t quite make the grade. So “Justice League,” as disappointing as it was, isn’t on the flops list, given that it grossed over $635 million worldwide.
The biggest successes —
Global box office: $821 million
Production budget: $120 million
Why it’s on the list: Who didn’t like “Wonder Woman”? The collaboration between Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins provided a fresh, light-hearted look at the superhero genre and became the one unqualified success in Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment’s efforts to compete with the Marvel-Disney universe. It has already set “Wonder Woman 2” for Nov. 2, 2019.
Global box office: $138 million
Production budget: $19 million
Popular on Variety
Why it’s on the list: Universal’s raucous and joyous “Girls Trip” became a serious breakout hit as an R-rated comedy — an area which had seen plenty of stumbles in recent years, with nothing resembling a major adult comedy success since Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” and Melissa McCarthy’s “Spy” two years earlier. It reinvigorated the road-trip genre, was a star-making vehicle for Tiffany Haddish and got director Malcolm D. Lee a first-look deal at Universal.
Global box office: $155 million (still in theaters)
Production budget: $20 million
Why it’s on the list: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year, the Jacob Tremblay tearjerker opened on Nov. 17-19 with Lionsgate expecting a $9 million debut — and then took in $27.6 million. Audiences embraced the film’s message of kindness and inclusion following an extensive social media campaign through Lionsgate in partnership with Participant Media. It’s Lionsgate’s biggest hit since “La La Land.”
Global box office: $254 million
Production budget: $4.5 million
Why it’s on the list: Jordan Peele’s innovative horror-comedy is the most successful micro-budget blockbuster from the lucrative Universal-Blumhouse collaboration, which has included “Split,” “Happy Death Day” and the “Purge” and “Ouija” franchises. It’s also a thoroughly entertaining exploration of the state of race relations in the U.S. Though it was released in January, “Get Out” has become a serious awards contender with multiple Golden Globe and SAG nominations already.
Global box office: $695 million
Production cost: $35 million
Why it’s on the list: “It” saved the domestic box office this year with a record-setting September after the worst summer in a decade. It’s also the highest-grossing horror film ever and is regarded as one of the best Stephen King movie adaptations. Warner Bros. and New Line have already scheduled “It: Chapter 2” for Sept. 6, 2019.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Global box office: $1.26 billion
Production cost: $160 million
Why it’s on the list: “Beauty and the Beast” is the best example of why Disney continues to draw on its massive library of successful animated properties and transform them in to live-action features. It’s also a casting triumph with Emma Watson establishing herself as a major star after being Hermione Granger in the eight Harry Potter movies. Next up for Disney — a live-action “Aladdin” opening on May 24, 2019, and the live-action “The Lion King,” opening on July 19, 2019.
Global box office: $536 million (still playing)
Production cost: $250 million
Why it’s on the list: It’s the second-highest opening weekend domestically and the fifth-highest globally — even before a China release. It’s the ninth film in the iconic franchise, which shows no signs of running out of steam any time soon, thanks to a marketing campaign that effectively tapped into the massive fan base. Five months from now, Disney-Lucasfilm will again test fans’ Force fervor with the “Han Solo” spinoff on May 25 with Alden Ehrenreich as the young pilot.
And here are the flops:
Global box office: $64 million
Production cost: $125 million
Why it’s on the list: In September, 2016, Viacom announced that it was taking “a programming impairment charge” of $115 million for losses from this Paramount live-action CGI adventure — four months before it even opened the movie, which had originally been set to open in 2015. Paramount had announced the film in 2013 as the launch of a franchise.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Global box office: $148 million
Production budget: $175 million
Why it’s on the list: Warner Bros. had been attempting to develop a King Arthur project for many years — first as an “Excalibur” remake and then as a possible six-film franchise set in the Arthurian world. Shooting began in 2015 with Charlie Hunnam starring but the original release date of July 22, 2016, was then delayed four times. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” drew only $39 million domestically and international markets provided little aid with Russia delivering the best performance with $12 million, followed by China with $8 million.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Global box office: $225 million
Production budget: $180 million
Why it’s on the list: Luc Besson’s ambitious “Valerian” is the most expensive independently financed movie in history. Rival studios and insiders estimated the film needed to make at least $400 million worldwide to climb into the black and justify a sequel. STX opened the movie in the U.S. against the launches of “Dunkirk,” which took in $50 million, and “Girls Trip,” which grossed $31 million to just $17 million for “Valerian.”
THE DARK TOWER
Global box office: $111 million
Production cost: $60 million
Why it’s on the list: The science fantasy western, based on Stephen King’s novel series, had been in development for a decade, first with J.J. Abrams, then with Ron Howard and finally with Nicolaj Arcel in multiple attempts to turn King’s sprawling narrative into a conventional movie. Critics derided “The Dark Tower” for being difficult to understand. The movie opened domestically with $19.5 million on Aug. 4-6, one of the lowest first-place finishes of the year.
Global box office: $8 million
Production cost: $90 million
Why it’s on the list: “The Promise” had a decent pedigree with Terry George directing and Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale in a story set in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. The film was released to coincide with the anniversary of the Armenian genocide and opened in ninth place with $4.1 million at more than 2,251 locations. The production was financed mostly by the late MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian, who posthumously received the only executive producer credit of his career.
Global box office: $207 million
Production cost: $120 million
Why it’s on the list: When a film’s release date is delayed four times, it’s a red flag for moviegoers — especially since the delays resulted in the film being opened, unfortunately, on the heels of massive hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. The premise of seeing the world devastated by a series of weather-related disasters probably didn’t seem like that much fun to moviegoers when parts of the world were actually being devastated by a series of weather-related disasters. International grosses were decent but domestic performance was dismal. China’s gross of $65 million was nearly double the U.S. gross of $33 million. Skydance co-financed.