Disappointing August 2017 Closed Out the Worst Summer Movie Season in Over 10 Years
by Brad Brevet
September 20, 2017
As the September box office attempts to get 2017 back on track — the month is currently up 14% compared to last year — the chapter ends on what was a dismal August 2017 at the domestic box office. August was the fourth month in a row to show a decline compared to the previous year, all of which contributed to the worst Summer movie season in over ten years, in which the total summer gross failed to top $4 billion for the first time since 2006.
August 2017 wrapped up as the worst August in twenty years with calendar grosses delivering a combined $657.7 million from 225 movies, 35.5% behind last year's gross and failing to top $700 million for the first time since 2000. Thanks to the continued performance of Annabelle: Creation, which just topped $100 million domestically yesterday, the month did deliver a $100+ million earner, a feat that looked as if it might not happen not too long ago. Annabelle also helped Warner Bros. top the month with nine films in release grossing nearly $165 million. Sony finished in second with $151 million, led by The Emoji Movie, which brought in $50.5 million over the course of the month after releasing over the final weekend in July.
Of the month's new releases, Annabelle: Creation led the way, so far generating nearly 25% of the combined total for all August releases followed by The Hitman's Bodyguard, which has held on nicely since its August 18 release, grossing over $70 million so far on a $30 million budget and nearly $150 million worldwide. Otherwise, Sony's release of The Dark Tower currently stands as the third largest grossing August release, eking over $50 million so far followed by Aviron's Kidnap ($30.5m) and Weinstein's Wind River ($29m).
Some of the summer's more disappointing titles can be found among the titles that ended their domestic run in August including Transformers: The Last Knight. The fifth installment in the franchise finished with just $130 million, a franchise low (excluding 1986's Transformers: The Movie) and a massive $115 million behind 2014's Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Last Knight did generate over $600 million worldwide, but on a $217 million budget, it still finished nearly $500 million shy of Age of Extinction's global haul. Undeterred, Paramount will attempt to expand on the Transformers universe with a stand-alone Bumblebee film set for release in December 2018. A major difference between Bumblebee and previous Transformers releases, however, is the film's budget will be slashed to a reported $70 million, which would seem to be more in line with future box office prospects for the franchise.
Universal's The Mummy finished its run in August with a mere $80.1 million domestically. Budgeted at $125 million, the studio hoped the Tom Cruise starrer would make a larger splash as they kicked off their Dark Universe franchise. Fortunately, while domestic returns were low, the international box office helped push the film's worldwide haul to $407.8 million, a figure the studio will be looking to improve on with their two upcoming additions to the "universe" with stars including Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem taking on the roles as The Invisible Man and Frankenstein's Monster respectively.
Additionally, franchise films such as Alien: Covenant, Smurfs: The Lost Village and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul also failed to live up to their predecessors. Smurfs and Long Haul finished their runs as the lowest grossing in their respective franchises (excluding 1983's The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) while Alien: Covenant finished as the fifth highest grossing film in the Alien franchise (not adjusted for inflation), managing to only outperform Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection and Aliens Vs. Predator - Requiem.
Several other films closed out their runs in August, a selection of those titles is listed below.
Broadening our perspective to the 2017 Summer movie season overall, while the season wasn't on a record-setting pace heading into August, the lackluster returns over the eighth month of the year didn't help matters. Summer 2017 finished with just $3.825 billion from 441 movies, 15% behind 2016 and the lowest grossing summer since 2006. All wasn't a disappointment, however, as WB's Wonder Woman led the way with over $411 million so far, becoming one of the top twenty domestic releases of all-time. Wonder Woman was followed by two other superhero releases in Disney and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($389.8m) and Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man: Homecoming ($330.2m).
Universal and Illumination's Despicable Me 3 has so far grossed $261 million domestically, contributing 25% of the overall gross for the film that has since topped $1 billion worldwide, the only summer release to hit that mark. And WB's release of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has so far brought in over $185 million, making it the fifth largest release over the summer months, contributing to a worldwide total that currently stands at $508.7 million.
Wonder Woman and Dunkirk also helped make Warner Bros. the highest grossing studio of the summer, generating $791 million over the course of the season from 11 movies*, of which six were released during the summer months and accounted for nearly 99% of the studio's summer total. Disney was a close second, bringing in $739 million from just five films, three of which were released during the summer months, accounting for 97% of the studio's summer gross.
By the end of Summer 2017, Disney was leading the way in terms of overall yearly grosses, coming up just shy of $1.4 billion, a mark 33.7% behind where the studio was last year when it had crossed $2.1 billion at the same point. Universal finished summer with over $1.3 billion in yearly grosses, a 29% improvement compared to 2016 and Warner Bros. finished just 5.5% off 2016 with $1.24 billion. WB, however, has already jumped to the top of the charts in 2017 thanks to the September debut of It, pushing its domestic total just shy of $1.5 billion with upcoming releases such as The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Blade Runner 2049 and, of course, Justice League in the pipeline.
Overall, by the end of August, 2017 was down 6.3% with $7.48 billion compared to $7.98 billion in 2016. Fortunately, and thanks in large part to WB and New Line's record-breaking release of It, 2017 is now trailing 2016 by just 5% as of September 17 with $7.928 billion. Looking ahead, this coming weekend will hope to aid in the domestic box office resuscitation with the likes of Kingsman The Golden Circle from Fox and The LEGO Ninjago Movie from WB before Blade Runner 2049 kicks things off in October.
* IMAX releases excluded
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