We are approaching Labour Day, a date which for so many years was associated with comedy/movie/telethon legend Jerry Lewis, who died earlier this month.
It’s also the weekend that usually marks the end of Summer Blockbuster Season, and 2017 was a more interesting summer than most.
On the one hand, it was filled with quality movies, more so than usual. In particular, several releases scored 90 per cent fresh or more at Rotten Tomatoes.
Among them: Dunkirk, Logan Lucky, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Baby Driver, The Big Sick, and others. There were also a host of other movies scoring over 80 per cent.
Yet despite this seeming embarrassment of riches, we had no end of complaints from moviegoers. Most of them had to do with the number of sequels out there.
Some were real turds this year. Efforts like the latest Transformers and the latest Pirates of the Caribbean landed with well-publicized thuds. Same for The Mummy reboot.
Then you had other half-witted ideas like The Emoji Movie, which at one point rated at zero per cent at Rotten Tomatoes before a few brave movie critics emerged to say nice things about it.
Bad word of mouth spread like a B.C. wildfire about these particularly lousy offerings at the movie theatres. A key villain, singled out by the Hollywood studio bosses, was social media. Unfortunately, what ended up happening was that many moviegoers got the impression the offerings at the cinemas this summer weren’t all that good, based on what they were reading on their Twitter feeds and from their Facebook friends.
Making matters worse, you had reports in the media on the weekly box office about how “Pirates” underperformed and how “Cars 3” underperformed, and how “Transformers”underperformed. And so on.
That simply added to the unenthusiasm about Summer Blockbuster Season.
According to the latest numbers reported, domestic summer revenue is down over 13 per cent, for the worst summer box office revenue in something like 10 years.
A dead month of August, with no potential blockbusters on the release schedule at all, has made a bad situation worse. It’s as if September has arrived early at the cinemas; or worse yet, October. Yes, the calendar says Labour Day isn’t for a few days yet, but for all intents and purposes summer is already over at the movie theatres. If you’re going to the theatre, though, that’s good: the popcorn line will be shorter.
As for the domestic box office numbers for summer 2017, this is what the numbers are showing over at Box Office Mojo for the top six summer movies as of August 24.
Wonder Woman $404,405,623
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 $389,251,300
Spider-Man: Homecoming $315,690,278
Despicable Me 3 $252,642,425
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales $171,876,005
It should be noted Dunkirk should easily pass “Pirates soon for fifth spot, as it continues to do decent business in theatres. Still, this list gives you an idea about why folks in charge in Hollywood have reason to be depressed. Only four releases grossed over $200 million in North America for the summer season.
On a more positive note, let’s look at the winners this summer.
In terms of the biggest winner, clearly it was Wonder Woman, which crossed the $400 million mark at the domestic box office and has also crossed the $800 million mark worldwide.
As far as the record book is concerned, its honours include the summer box office title for 2017, the highest gross ever for a DC Extended Universe film, as well as the highest gross ever for a female director (Patty Jenkins).
For a superhero origin film (meaning, the first of the series) Wonder Woman just broke the all-time domestic record, topping Spider-Man, which had held the mark at $403,706,375.
It’s interesting that the top three movies at the box office this summer were all superhero movies – again. Notably, the haul for Spider-Man: Homecoming proved to be yet another victory for Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man. With a current haul of $315 million, this marks the sixth time that a movie featuring Iron Man produced a domestic haul of at least $300 million.
To sum up, box office highlights were in short supply this summer. It’s too bad, because there was no shortage of quality movies. There’s already Oscar talk for efforts like Dunkirk and Detroit. And there were some releases that did create a lot of excitement (ie. Wonder Woman). But overall, the numbers don’t lie.
Better luck in November and December, I guess. (Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, etc.)
So, it is a wrap for summer blockbuster season 2017. Next up for the movie fans: film festival season (Toronto).