This particular movie season is supposed to be the time of year when movie studios and theatres cash in.
The big event movies are placed in the US summer months to specifically draw in the kids who are out of school. In the past, that’s led to a period when the movie industry makes a large chunk of its revenue for the year.
But both studios and exhibitors are suddenly seeing that the game has changed.
Summer movie ticket sales dropped 10% from the previous year in 2016 at the domestic box office. And they were down 12% this summer compared to 2016. The effects can be seen at the country’s biggest multiplexes, which saw shares plummet.
It’s hard to tell if the summer movie season will ever return to its former glory — especially when it seems the last few summers things on the small screen captured the zeitgeist more, whether it was Netflix’s “Stranger Things” or HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
But there will always be movies that break through and find an audience, and this summer was no different (“Wonder Woman,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”).
It’s just becoming more evident that studios need to rethink what they release during the summer to compete with our addiction to streaming and mobile devices.
To look back on summer 2017 at the box office, we broke down the five big winners and losers:
Warner Bros.'s long-awaited theatrical version of the legendary DC Comics character brought legitimacy to the studio's DC Extended Universe, and won the domestic box office this summer by taking in over $US400 million. It's earned close to $US800 million worldwide.
Director Patty Jenkins found the perfect combination of action sequences and inspiring origin story to make the movie into a can't-miss event of the summer, which is what Hollywood has craved.
AMC, America's largest theatre chain, announced in early August that its shares dropped 27%, the biggest one-day decline in the company's history. This was due to the company saying it would record a second-quarter loss. And none of the other chains are doing any better: Regal's net income fell around 30% in the second quarter, while Cinemark's dropped 5%.
For many, most of the movies that hit the big multiplexes felt tired and unoriginal. It also didn't help that many had poor Rotten Tomatoes scores. Speaking of which ...
The review aggregator site really flexed its muscles this summer. With studies now having data to back up the claim that most moviegoers look at the site before deciding on buying movie tickets, more and more studios and distributors are using the 'Tomatometer' score in their marketing of a movie -- when the score is good.
And this summer when a studio anticipated a bad score, it delayed critics from seeing the movie as much as possible. Sony did that with the releases of 'The Emoji Movie' (which on the day of its opening had a 0% rating) and 'The Dark Tower.' Though both received rotten scores on the site, they had respectable opening weekends ('The Dark Tower' won its weekend). This was partly because there was little competition on those weekends, but also because critics chimed in much later than usual.
The power of the Tomatometer is real!
Last summer was not a fluke: audiences are sick and tired of sequels.
This summer saw movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,' 'Transformers: The Last Knight,' and 'Alien: Covenant' all underperform at the domestic box office. But here's the rub: these franchises survive because they earn huge coin overseas.
There was no better example of why the domestic box office is no longer the make-or-break of a big franchise summer movie than this year's releases. Here's a small glimpse at a few titles' domestic gross versus foreign:
'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' - $US171.5 million (domestic) / $US614.5 million (foreign)
'The Mummy' - $US80 million (domestic) / $US325.3 million (foreign)
'Transformers: The Last Knight' - $US129.8 million (domestic) / $US464.2 million (foreign)
'Baywatch' - $US58 million (domestic) / $US118.5 million (foreign)
When executives look at these numbers, they wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't continue the franchises.
One movie you likely won't see a sequel to is Luc Besson's latest, because it didn't do well domestically or internationally. The French filmmaker's passion project might have featured some dazzling special effects, but the story itself (and its over two hour running time) made people wish they just stayed home and watch their copy of 'The Fifth Element.'
Sporting one of the worst releases of the summer (the movie was made for an estimated $US177.2 million), the movie opened to only $US17 million on over 3,500 screens and has a worldwide gross of $US90 million to date.
In many ways you can call the success of Christopher Nolan's intimate epic a cry from audiences to Hollywood to give them more big-budget original stories. Warner Bros. really didn't know what it had at first, as early projections had the movie taking in around $US20 million to $US25 million its opening weekend. It went on to take in $US50.5 million and has earned over $US363 million to date worldwide.
Thanks to stellar reviews (and a bump from IMAX screen ticket prices), the movie proves that not everything in the summer needs to be a superhero movie.
It seems one thing audiences have had enough of is Will Ferrell comedies. His latest, starring alongside Amy Poehler, was DOA at the box office with only $US32.8 million worldwide (it was made for $US40 million). The movie only opened with $US8.7 million, the worst wide release opening of Ferrell's career.
When your movie is going to be remembered more for Mariah Carey getting diva on set and walking off instead of the jokes in the movie, you can call that a failure.
As usual, when all is said and done, Disney will be a big winner when it comes to box office. The studio had three titles in the top ten of biggest domestic earners of the summer -- 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,' and 'Cars 3.'
It continues its dominance of the other big studios, leading the pack at the yearly box office.
The studio has always struggled in the summer months and this was no different. 'Transformers: The Last Knight' and 'Baywatch' both bombed domestically. But as we learned, all that seems to matter little compared to how they did internationally. And with both doing much stronger overseas, expect more to come. In fact, a spinoff movie on the Bumblebee Transformers character is already in production.
Will Hollywood ever learn?
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