‘The Last Jedi’ poised to star as end-of-year box office hero
Stephen King’s “It” made for one scary movie, but it wasn’t nearly as spine-chilling as Hollywood’s summer box-office returns.
That 2017 season’s $3.8 billion take in North American receipts has been the worst since 2006, according to data provided by comScore, and left the industry lagging 6.5 percent behind 2016’s record pace.
“Everyone [at the time] was sounding the death knell for movies,” says Paul Dergarabedian, comScore’s senior media analyst.
Thanks to “It,” which opened in early September, business has since rebounded spectacularly — so much so that it’s sneaking up on last year’s best-ever box office of $11.4 billion.
The Warner Brothers horror flick not only accounted for nearly half of September’s North American gross of $713 million, but is on track to return 20 times its $35 million budget in worldwide ticket sales.
But Warner Bros. also is credited with the year’s biggest flop, the $175 million “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which generated only $39.2 million in North American receipts.
The year got off to a fast start, with such first-quarter hits as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Logan” and “Get Out,” and after the “It” save in the fall, should close well, beginning with the release of Pixar’s “Coco” on Wednesday. Then the granddaddy hopeful of them all, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” opens Dec. 15.
Just how close Hollywood’s performance in 2017 gets to 2016 will largely depend on whether moviegoers take to “Jedi” as they did to the series’ “Rogue One” or to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
The former grossed $408 million between Nov. 21 and Dec. 31 in 2016, or 33 percent less than “The Force Awakens,” which pulled in an eye-popping $605 million over the same dates the previous year.
Dergarabedian projects a 2017 box-office haul of $10.9 billion to $11.1 billion, or 4.4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, off the record box office last year. Either one will go a long way toward erasing the memory of the puny summer totals.
For his part, Dergarabedian said the result is satisfying given how “confounding and volatile the year has been,” adding that it will “set the stage nicely for 2018.”
Not all industry trackers are so optimistic, though, especially after separating the top 25 grossing films from the remaining 220 monitored this year by Box Office Mojo.
“Increasingly, a lot of big films are tentpoles produced by Disney, which has all the other players fighting over scraps,” said Doug Creutz, who covers media and entertainment for Cowen and Co.
Creutz also said that, as studios fixate on overseas tastes, they’re leaving domestic audiences with little more than “cartoons and explosions.”
“You’re seeing whole genres almost die off,” the analyst said. “When was the last time you saw a romantic comedy do well at the box office? When was the last time you saw one get released?”
Movies also are up against greater competition for Friday night entertainment, which in the old days meant consumers were lining up to watch that week’s new release.
“Now I’ve got Netflix, video games, Facebook and a billion other things that are entertaining and cost a lot less money,” Creutz said. “People these days only go to movies they feel they really must see at a theater, and those tend to be tentpoles.”