December 2017 Closes Out the Year with Record Grosses
by Brad Brevet
January 10, 2018
The December box office delivered a record $1.323 billion in ticket sales, an 11% improvement over last year. The month was super-charged by the more than $517 million brought in by Disney's Star Wars: The Last Jedi as well as the performance of Sony's late year hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. As a result, what was a year-to-year deficit of -4.3% heading into December, 2017 finished down -2.7% when compared to 2016's record grosses becoming the third year in a row to finish with over $11 billion in ticket sales and the third highest grossing year at the box office ever.
Of course, grosses are one thing whereas actual tickets sold is another. Estimated ticket sales in 2017 totaled just 1.239 billion, down 5.8% compared to 2016 and the lowest total since 1992. Cause for the decline can be linked to several factors, but it's hard to ignore the latest report from Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) noting home entertainment spending reached $20.5 billion in 2017, up 5.26% compared to 2016. Within that figure, electronic sell-through spending rose nearly 6% compared to last year, which includes a more-than-12% jump in theatrical content. Additionally, total digital sales (including streaming) rose nearly 20% in 2017.
Meanwhile, with home entertainment numbers in various formats on the rise, the movie ticket subscription service MoviePass recently announced they have surpassed 1.5 million subscribers. The service, which allows subscribers to see a movie in theaters every day of the month for a monthly subscription fee of just $9.95, is available at 91% of movie theaters nationwide. Indiewire reports the service has helped boost ticket sales for films such as Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist and The Shape of Water with "6-13% of their opening weeks ticket sales come from MoviePass". Whether MoviePass can sustain its business model, selling subscriptions for just over the current $8.93 average ticket price (and well below ticket prices in places like New York and Los Angeles), and help drive more traffic to the box office should prove interesting over the coming year.
All that being said, while 2017 had its peaks and valleys, December was certainly one of the peaks as the month's $1.323 billion in ticket sales translates to an estimated 148.15 million tickets sold, the fifth largest amount ever in December compared to previous years where Mojo has tracked 100 films or more. Disney led the way with nearly $645 million with three films in release including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which delivered the second largest opening weekend of all-time ($220m), became the highest grossing release of 2017 after just 17 days in release and has since grossed over $575 million domestically and over $1.22 billion worldwide. The film currently ranks as the sixth largest domestic release of all-time and 12th largest global release.
Disney and Pixar's Coco added nearly $100 million to its domestic total in December and Thor: Ragnarok added nearly $30 million. Coco's domestic total has recently topped $190 million domestically and nearly $600 million globally while Thor: Ragnarok has grossed over $310 million domestically and over $850 million worldwide, placing $13 million behind Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the seventh highest grossing worldwide release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney's success didn't end there, surpassing Warner Bros. in early December to become the highest grossing studio of 2017, finishing the year with $2.41 billion from 12 films. While this number is down 19.7% compared to the studio's record 2016, which saw them become the first studio to ever deliver over $3 billion in yearly domestic grosses, Disney released four fewer films in 2017 and didn't release a single film in the months of July, August, September or October. Looking at the studio's future releases they appear to be following a similar strategy looking forward. With 33 films currently slated through 2021, not one is set to hit theaters in the months of September or October.
Finishing second in December, and crossing $1 billion in yearly domestic box office sales for the first time in three years, was Sony Pictures, led by an impressive $169 million from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which has since gone on to gross over $250 million domestically and over $530 million worldwide thus far. While the studio's $1.06 billion in domestic ticket sales in 2017 is far from their best, it's a good sign after two straight years of decline. That said, Sony did release 29 films in 2017 compared to 26 in 2016, 20 in 2015 and 25 in 2012, which was the studio's highest grossing year ever with nearly $1.8 billion in domestic sales thanks to films such as Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man and MIB 3.
20th Century Fox finished third in December with $127.6 million from six films in release, led by their mid-December release Ferdinand with $53.5 million. Overall, Fox finished fourth among all studios for the year with $1.326 billion from 19 films, ranking as the studio's seventh highest grossing year ever at the domestic box office and third best year ever based on average per film, grossing nearly $70 million per release. Fox's highest grossing 2017 title was their early-March release Logan ($226.2m) followed by The Boss Baby ($175m) and the smash hit Hidden Figures ($167.6m), which was in theaters for over 300 days after debuting over Christmas 2016.
Universal finished December in fourth place with $63.7 million, all but a fraction of which came from the late December release of Pitch Perfect 3. The studio finished the year as the third highest grossing studio with $1.52 billion from 16 releases, up 8.5% compared to 2016 despite releasing four fewer films. The studio's 2017 was topped by Despicable Me 3 with $264.6 million domestically and The Fate of the Furious with $225.7 million. However, it was films such as Get Out ($175.5m), Split ($138.1m) and Girls Trip ($115.1m) that really stand out when looking at Universal's year. The combined budgets for those three films is reported to be just $32.5 million and the three films combined for over $670 million worldwide.
Rounding out the December top five is Warner Bros. which was the first studio in 2017 to cross the $2 billion mark until Disney barged through the door with three monster, year-end releases. Come the final month of the year WB only had the R-rated comedy Father Figures to be released, which grossed just under $13 million for the month. It was Justice League that led December for WB with $44.7 million as the superhero film has so far grossed just over $227 million domestically since its mid-2017 release.
2017 was Warner's second largest year ever at the domestic box office, bringing in $2.034 billion from 33 movies, behind only 2009's $2.1 billion, when the studio released films such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hangover and The Blind Side. WB's year was led by Wonder Woman's $412.5 million, which finished as the year's highest grossing superhero domestic release, followed by the monster horror hit It ($327.4m), Justice League and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk ($188.3m).
Lionsgate placed as the sixth highest grossing studio in December and sixth overall for what was a solid year for the studio, finishing just shy of $885 million domestically from 22 releases. It's the studio's third best year ever behind 2012 and 2013 when films in the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises helped push the studio's domestic totals over $1 billion. Overall, Lionsgate finished up 33% compared to last year, led by their November release of Wonder with over $121 million followed by La La Land and John Wick: Chapter Two.
On the flip side of that success is Paramount Pictures, which finished the year down 39% compared to 2016, delivering just $534.2 million from 18 releases. Going back as far as 2000, this is the worst the studio has performed, coming up $94 million shy of 2004, which was previously the studio's worst year in the last 18 with $628.3 million. If it's any consolation, 2002 did have a worse average per film, $26.9 million vs. 2017's $29.7 million.
Lastly, a list of selected films that closed out their domestic runs in December is featured below, ordered by cumulative gross. Notable titles on the list include WB and New Line's It and its record-breaking $327.5 million domestically and nearly $700 million worldwide. Universal and Illumination's Despicable Me 3 ended its domestic run after 175 days in release and its $264.6 million domestic tally helped make it one of four films to top $1 billion at the worldwide box office in 2017.
Additionally, Universal and Blumhouse's Happy Death Day closed out its run in December after pulling in over $55 million. Along with Split and Get Out, Happy Death Day was one of Blumhouse Productions' 2017 hits as those three films alone combined for nearly $370 million domestically, two of which were made for less than $5 million with Split being the most expensive of the trio with a reported budget of merely $9 million.
Finally, with 2017 now behind us, below is a list of the top twenty films at the 2017 box office based on calendar grosses.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney) - $517.22m
- Beauty and the Beast (Disney) - $504.01m
- Wonder Woman (WB) - $412.56m
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Disney) - $389.81m
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony) - $334.2m
- It (WB) - $327.48m
- Thor: Ragnarok (Disney) - $311.23m
- Despicable Me 3 (Uni.) - $264.62m
- Logan (Fox) - $226.28m
- The Fate of the Furious (Uni.) - $226.01m
- Justice League (WB) - $225.55m
- Dunkirk (WB) - $188.05m
- Coco (Disney) - $179.83m
- The LEGO Batman Movie (WB) - $175.75m
- Get Out (Uni.) - $175.69m
- The Boss Baby (Fox) - $175.m
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Disney) - $172.56m
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony) - $169.m
- Kong: Skull Island (WB) - $168.05m
- Hidden Figures (Fox) - $167.62m
For a look at the full list click here. You can also find the top grossing releases of 2017 here and the top ranking worldwide grosses of 2017 here.
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