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.