Box Office

Box Office: Has Summer 2017 Already Peaked?

As I left Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 I had a Jack Nicholson moment, thinking to myself:

What if Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is as good as it gets for movies this summer? Sure, there may yet be better movies as well as movies which sell more tickets, but will there be anything else this summer which is as universally beloved as Guardians 2 AND as financially successful?

Maybe not. According to the Los Angeles Times, studios are expecting to make 10% less between May and September than they did last year, with the primary culprits thought to be franchise fatigue and a generally weaker crop of movies. The herd was already thinned by the number of summer blockbuster-like movies which came out in March instead (i.e., Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell,  Logan, Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast). Now, what’s left doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm, and the summer is off to a horrible start:

We’ve already had a candidate for biggest box office bomb of all time (King Arthur), a quick and sudden end to Amy Schumer’s brief reign as a bankable leading lady (Snatched, which will just barely make back its $42m budget), an Alien movie which opened 30% below the last Alien movie (although the difference is partially offset by Covenant costing $33m less to make than Prometheus) and a DOA Diary of a Wimpy Kid reboot.

Plus, a handful of indie critical darlings (Colossal, Sleight, Lost City of Z) have struggled to break through, destined, no doubt, to find their largest audiences after they’ve left theaters and landed on various streaming services. All of that and we’re still only into the third week of the summer box office season, which officially kicked off with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5th.

But are we merely witnessing the after-effects of Guardians 2’s success, diverting eyeballs away from other movies, most of which didn’t have good word-of-mouth anyway?  Guardians 2, after all, is exactly the huge hit it was always going to be (it just crossed $300m domestic), just as pretty much anything which arrives with the Marvel Studios logo induces a worldwide pavlovian response where we all lurch zombie-like to the nearest theater and mumble, “Take my money now, please.” Everything else in the month has been, on some level, a disappointment. Even an apparent victory like How To Be a Latin Lover surprisingly grossing nearly $30m comes with the caveat that it’s still well south of star Eugenio Derbez’s 2013 breakthrough comedy Instructions Not Included ($44m) or even his faith-based film Miracles From Heaven ($66m) from last year.

Now we’re heading into Memorial Day weekend. Guardians’ dominance is coming to an end. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and Baywatch should clean up this weekend, but will they? The latest projections (and I have previously written about how little faith we should put in projections) have Pirates 5 equaling if not bettering Pirates 4’s $90m debut, which was a franchise low. Baywatch, meanwhile, is projected to roughly replicate the $35m opening off Dwayne Johnson’s last comedy, 2016’s Central Intelligence, which ultimately legged it to $127m. Even if both films achieve or exceed those projections, May 2017 will still likely have a lower cumulative gross than May 2016 (the month of Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse and The Angry Birds Movie).

Beyond that, there’s Wonder Woman (6/2; which is tracking to open significantly lower than Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), Captain Underpants (6/2; gets the honor of being the first animated movie of the summer but currently has next to zero buzz), The Mummy (6/9; tracking for a modest debut,) Cars 3 (6/16; a toy-selling sequel no one asked for yet can’t be dismissed, not after the box office magic Pixar worked with Finding Dory last year) and then Transformers 5 (6/23) and Despicable Me 3 (6/30).

The rest of the summer brings Spider-Man: Homecoming (7/7; when is enough going to be enough with this whole Spider-Man reboot cycle?), War for the Planet of the Apes (7/14), Dunkirk (7/21; this gritty war movie will seriously test of the Christopher Nolan brand), Atomic Blonde (7/28; Charlize Theron’s female-fronted version of John Wick) and The Emoji Movie (7/28; if Angry Birds Movie can make money so can this, but how much money?) and The Dark Tower (8/4; too far out to tell how its current buzz will translate to ticket sales).

Those are just the big movies. There are several smaller films which have a shot at breakthrough success, such as Kumail Nanjiani’s film festival hit The Big Sick (6/23) and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (6/28).

Generally, the way this has gone lately is anything animated will print money, almost anything Disney will set records and everything else will suffer or rack up respectable ticket sales despite not being very well liked (looking at you, Transformers). Broadly speaking, summer 2017 seems unlikely to change that pattern, although Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk all have legitimate shots at achieving both box office and critical glory. Still, by the end of the summer it’s probable that the highest-grossing and most well-liked (based on the various review aggregators) film of the season will still be Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Maybe this is as good as it gets. We might have already witnessed the consensus pick for movie of the summer because that title sure as hell isn’t going to the fifth Pirates or Transformers. Let’s see if something else comes along to truly surprise us financially and/or critically [6-9-17 update: something did-it’s called Wonder Woman], but while we wait Hollywood’s already downgrading profit forecasts and preparing for a disappointing summer.

Source: Los Angeles Times


  1. If Wonder Woman is actually good, it might clean up more than expected. I have a slight hope that the PotC and the Transformer franchise will die already, but I doubt it. In the end a lot in the summer will simply depend on WoM.

    1. Agreed. The advance WoM on Wonder Woman is good, but it’s already behind the 8 ball thanks to the giant turds laid by its predecessors in the DCEU.

      According to the trailer, this is supposed to be the last PotC movie. So, that’s something. I’m frankly surprised to see the tracking – unreliable as it may be – so high on that one. The franchise has been away for 5 years, the public seems ready to run Johnny Depp out of town and the last movie set franchise lows (domestically). Yet Pirates 5 might just do okay for itself.

      Transformers – sigh. Those movies need to go away for good, but last I checked they were still mapping out 17 sequels and spin-offs (I’m slightly exaggerating….I think).

      1. There will be a poc6 if this one makes noney. Jonny deoo needs a steady income after becoming unbankable. Just look at police accademy movies. They go uo to 7 ala mission to moscow. Fast and furious is another one. Keep churning them out and yes we have china to thank for those.

      2. And Pirates 5 would hardly be the first film in Hollywood history to claim to be the final installment in a franchise which somewhat comically ends up living for several more sequels. Well aware of Hollywood’s love of IP. Just saying that for as much as it matters Disney is claiming this is the last time, and no one who worked on the movie behind the scenes probably wants to work with Depp again if the reports of him being chronically late to set – so late that the studio dispatched people outside his home to keep watch and note when he woke up so that they could call the set and update them on an ETA – are true.

      3. agree and wow terrible shocking typos and spelling earlier. Sorry. bad phone and heavily distracted when I posted Jonny depp comment.

      4. No worries on the typos. I sometimes use my phone or tablet to respond to comments, and, yeah, not always at my grammatic best in that situation. So, I get it

      5. Well, I have given up on the PotC franchise a long time ago. I still haven’t even seen the last movie. But I admit, when I saw the trailer for this one, I was kind of tempted. It was pretty good.

        Transformers is sadly the Ice Age of the live action franchises.

      6. I haven’t seen the last PotC either, but having seen the Pot5 trailer twice now with packed crowds thanks to Guardians 2 I’ve seen how well it seems to be playing with audiences and with good cause. Like you said, it’s a pretty good franchise.

        You’re probably not wrong about Transformers.

      7. Oh no, it is not a pretty good franchise!!! It was a pretty good movie which then ended in a terrible franchise. But it is also the only pirate movies we get, so if you are really into pirate movies, there aren’t a lot of options. But Cutthroat Island is better than any of the PotC sequels and while I do like the movie a lot, I’ll be the first to admit that I mostly like it because it has everything a pirate movie should have, even if the story contradicts itself multiple times. But at least it is still coherent and delivers the goods, meaning old fashioned swash buckling and not the cartoony nonsense the PotC sequels do.

        I think this is the main difference. There was someone working on the first movie, who took it seriously, despite it being based on a themepark ride. Yeah, there was some self-conscious humour, but it still felt real in a “well, we have romanticized the era a little bit” way. The sequels just throw stuff at you, there is no real love for the genre or the characters in it.

      8. Well, that’s not true. There are plenty of other relatively recent pirate movies. There’s…


        [Don’t say Cutthroat Island]


        [Don’t say The Pirates: Band of Misfits]


        [Don’t try to make an argument for any of the Peter Pan movies or Master & Commander]

        Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

      9. lol, I really hope you’re exaggerating about the Transformers 17’s getting a bit too much just like all the Xmen spin-offs. Thankfully we’ve seen the last Logan AKA Wolverine spin-off (hopefully)

      10. Yes, I was exaggerating. They have a writer’s room working on a Transformers cinematic universe, with a Bumblebee movie due in 2018 and Transformera 6 in 2019. Anything beyind that is unclear, but they seem to have huge plans with possibility of crossing over with other Hasbro toy movies. Whether or not any of that will actually happen, though…

        I can at least say with a fair amount of confidence that Logan is it for Jackman. Really hard for him to come back after that.

      11. I think I’ve heard about the Bumblebee movie but didn’t know about any others..and yea, Jackman is done as Wolverine except if they come up with some kinda story for like a prequel to Logan. I really hope they don’t though.

      12. From all interviews, the only future for Logan at this point is for his daughter Laura to maybe get her own movie. The bloodline will live on, but Logan will still be long gone. However, the producers have yet to commit to an X23 movie and instead have to worry about all the other spin-offs they have in development, including three scheduled for release next year

      13. Arghhh what a waste of money and studio time. A bumblebee movie? RIP cinema.

      14. I believe it’s just the Chinese market that’s encouraging them to do movies like this..a drop in ticket sales in the west shows you’re not alone in being tires of such movies but then the increase in the Chinese ticket sales is ringing in major money in the studios pockets

      15. Maybe a few years from now china will make hollywood movies and we will purchase from them.

      16. That’s if we don’t somehow up in war with China. It’s strange how central China is to Hollywood while at the same time being a central player and enabler of the possibly oncoming North Korean war.

        However, assuming cooler heads prevail and relations between US and China stay as they are then, yes, China 110% wants to replace Hollywood. They’re building up their own production capacity and vast backlots and soundstages to rival anything we have over here or up in Vancouver, and are offering unbelievably generous tax incentives to coax productions over there. So far, though, the only productions (e.g., Pacific Rim 2) choosing to bite are those from Legendary Entertainment, which, not coincidentally, is now owned by China. Everything would probably be going smoother if The Great Wall hadn’t bombed. That was supposed to be the grand experiment which opened the way for more co-productions between Chinese studios and Hollywood studios, but it bombed here while doing fairly well over there, the lesson being an American face on a Chinese movie helps sell tickets over there but does very little over here. At least not yet.

      17. We dont need another wolverine story for at least another generation. Its milked dry. Take note spiderman.

    2. I agree as well..I think Wonder Woman would do very good but I believe the movie that’ll take the cake would be The Dark Tower. So many positive reactions to the trailer I posted on His Movie Blog facebook page and from other similar blogs as well,the anticipation is high

  2. People wont go to the cinema any more for reboot and remakes and take on higher cinema ticket and popcorn costs. We are all spoiled with online streaming at home and on demand TV. Why do we want to go cinema if its not too hot weather or too cold weather, plan a time to view it, sit with a bunch of strangers who smell or are noisy or inconsiderate. Find my seat, use the public urinals, pay a tenner for popcorn or something then get home in traffic. The alternative could be to wait a bit then you can watch the same movie at home with friends at one price for all or even watch it in you PJs in bed. Cinema cant compete with that. Even 3D is available on tv. Its more convenient. I think the exceptions are kids films. Taking them to a movie is a day out or getting them out of the house and quiet for 2 or more hours. You are buying their silence (not achievable with home entertainment due to distractions at home. Cinemas know this. That is why they are exploring premium streaming services where they will realise a film 10 days after it comes out in cinema for 24 hour stream at £10 a go. Sign of the times.

    1. In general, movie theaters have turned into chaperones/babysitters, as you pointed out. Anything – usually something pre-banded or IP-recognizable – which can get the teens out of the house on a weekend night or offer up a chance for beleaguered parents to get their brat kids to shut up for 2 hours is what makes money. That’s the type of entertainment Hollywood has chosen to prioritize for a long time now for a wide variety of reasons, and the market has reacted accordingly, with those who don’t like those kinds of movies or are simply tired of them by now looking around and realizing how much we are all just flat out drowning in quality alternate choices – for example, this past weekend offered new full seasons of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 12 Monkeys, new episodes of Leftovers, Veep, Silicon Valley, American Gods, the return of Twin Peaks, the debut of HBO’s Bernie Madoff movie Wizard of Lie. And pretty soon, again as you pointed out, we’ll all be able to add premium streaming rentals of new movies to those options which seem engineered to ensure we never have to leave home.

      1. De niro pesci are to reunite for a netflix film. Brad pitt in a prog on netflix. Cinema is at home.

    2. We got to the cinema because you are in the same social group as someone attractive and need to do something. However, that something can’t be too forward such as inviting them all to my messy apartment cluttered with board games, Star Wars merchandise and technological devices..

      1. “We got to the cinema because you are in the same social group as someone attractive and need to do something. However, that something can’t be too forward such as inviting them all to my messy apartment cluttered with board games, Star Wars merchandise and technological devices.”

        There are all kinds of Martin Landeau in The Majestic-esque proclamations to be made about the power of the communal experience and how a trip to the cinema is almost like a religious experience for certain cinephiles. And that’s why movie theaters will never truly die.

        That’s all fine and good, but in truth you’ve pretty well summed up the enduring appeal of going to a movie theater – it gives people something to do together out of the house. As the MPAA has been saying for years, theater attendance is still by far the cheapest out-of-home entertainment option there is when compared to live theater, sporting events, etc. So, movie attendance has and continues to be an important part of courtship or friendships or family entertainment.

      2. I don’t get spiritual experiences from going to the cinema or even when I went to church. I did get one from hearing Clarence Clemons.

        Despite the growing prices, cinema is one of the most affordable night outs.

      3. Yeah but ypu are not really being sociable at the cinema. You and friends are all sitting in the dark looking at a big screen. No one is talking abkut things or you will get shhd by the aidience. Then at the end you ask what did you think of the film. Thats it. Then either home or go on to a real place to be social. Yes i agree the old safe date is useful to put your arm round that girl u have been dying to get to know but dontnwant her judging your flat but even then you still need to do some pre getting to know u stuff first somewhere ekse

      4. None of that is really in dispute. But even if film attendance is not actually all that sociable it is still something people can do together for fairly cheap outside of the house.

  3. “it’s more that we might have already witnessed the consensus pick for movie of the summer because that title sure as hell isn’t going to the fifth Pirates or Transformers”

    Not for you and me but there’s plenty of people still paying to see them. This is one of the things that we can legitimately blame the China for.

    1. Yes, but every summer – at least every summer since let’s say the start of the MCU in 2008 – has its share of hits and flops as well as more specific categories like “hits which no one seemed to actually like” and “hits which everyone seemed to love.” Hell, the Transformers movies got so bad that Michael Bay and Shia LeBeouf openly apologized for them, yet they continued to make serious bank. Of course, to say “everyone liked” or “everyone didn’t like” is inherently innacurate, but it’s not hard at the end of each summer to get a general pulse on which movies people genuinely liked and which ones they went to see because, eh, it seemed like the thing to do. And looking ahead to the rest of the summer I find it hard to believe that anything else which comes out is going to both make as much money as Guardians 2 and be as widely adored. For example, Pot5 could very well make more money worldwide since GotG will likely fall short of $1 billion but end the summer as a “eh, it was okay” hazy memory for most.

      1. perhaps its the weather too. November and December are better times to be doing an activity indoors.

  4. The only movies I’m looking forward to this summer are Spider Man, Despicable Me 3, Wonder, and The Glass Castle. After that, my eyes are soley focused on The Last Jedi.

    1. There are plenty of movies I know I’ll see because I have a MoviePass and want to review them for the site, but Spider-Man might be the only one I am genuinely excited about. I trust based on reputation that Despicable Me 3 will probably be a lot of fun (don’t know about Cars 3), and I’m very curious about The Dark Tower, Atomic Blonde and Baby Driver. I’ll have to look up Glass Castle, though. That’s new to me.

      1. Surely someone somewhere is kicking back watching Mummy in a theater. I actually plan on seeing it tonight, going in with basement-level expectations.

      2. Its supposed to be good but not because its a true horror movie classic remade but because its action packed Tom cruise running around and performing crazy stunts. Its really Mission Impossible : Mummy Protocol.

      3. Yeah, The Glass Castle is actually based on a memoir by the same name. It was an amazing book so I’m really hoping the movie is just as good!

  5. Wonder Woman is going to lift the box office. That The Mummy comes out tomorrow and still has no reviews is NOT a good sign, but strong word of mouth on WW will probably keep it going. We’ll have to see if people are as sick of Transformers as Pirates, but Cars 3 will do well no matter how awful it is. Despicable Me 3 will clean up. July, though, has guaranteed blockbusters in Spider-Man, Apes, and Dunkirk. August is iffy. It all depends on how well they did The Dark Tower and if an audience who isn’t familiar with the books will buy into the film. The rest of the month is pretty much a wasteland.

    1. I think you’re reading for how this will play out, financially, is pretty spot-on, other than The Mummy, which is tanking domestically (although I have the benefit of knowing that since I’m writing this reply 2 days late). But there will definitely be hits. It’s not going to all be like May where everything other than Guardians seemed to be a financial disappointment, domestically at least. Despicable 3, Cars 3, Spidey, Apes, Dunkirk – they’ll all make money, and then after them Dark Tower is a mystery and the rest of August a surprising wasteland. I just don’t know that anything else is going to make as much money as Guardians while being as loved, but Wonder Woman might prove to be the true movie of the summer despite making less money than Guardians. It has hit so many nerves for people and won over critics. When I wrote this article I sure didn’t anticipate that Wonder Woman would become the most-tweeted about film of the summer, or at least if I had any inkling that would happen I would have assumed the tweets would have been negative, based upon WB’s Man of Steel-BvS-Suicide Squad track record.

      1. I completely agree. If WW has staying power it could siphon down the rest of the June openings, but with as crowded as July is it’s tough to see any film breaking out except possibly Spider-Man.

      2. We had the same thing happen last July, if I remember correctly. It was one big movie after another (Legend of Tarzan, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, Ghostbusters) and they all ate into each other’s business before Suicide Squad came along in the first week of August and wiped everything out. The difference this time might depend on the reviews because last July almost all of those movies received tepid-to-poor reviews. This July Dunkirk, Spider-Man and Apes could all be very well-liked, and Atomic Blonde might swoop in at the end riding on some of that WW energy. Still, you’re right. It’s going to be hard for anything other than Spider-Man to break out, and Valerian is probably going to get swallowed up by the competition.

      3. I think they should produce less films in summer as there is too many and not enough uptake. As you say one movie is eating up another. We are going back to the 80s.

      4. Probably true, but the concept Hollywood is gravitating toward is not less summer movies and instead year-round scheduling. No one really wants to get caught in a release date crunch in June or July. So, movies which are more or less summer blockbusters are now being moved to February – April and October-December. Some of those months were already busy times for movies, some weren’t. But now that we’ve had multiple Decembers in a row with new Star Wars movies it’s weird if there isn’t some blockbuster out around Christmas. Now that Batman v Superman and Logan/Beauty and the Beast have been big hits in consecutive Marches Hollywood will keep pouring big movies in there. This creates obvious problems for smaller movies which are running out of months where they can make any noises without being overshadowed by some blockbuster, but it’s also a problem for blockbusters because since the book is already out on this strategy the studios are all aggressively claiming release dates years in advance. So, it’s harder and harder for even blockbusters to find elbow room, though I have no idea why everyone again insisted on piling into July this year and leaving August to Dark Tower and a bunch of smaller movies. Valerian or Ghost in the Shell, for example, could have easily been moved to August.

      5. Yeah, Valerian has an unfortunate John Carter feel to it. I have no idea what it will do internationally, but it’s doomed domestically.

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