February 2017 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
March 2, 2017

You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

February just doesn’t feel like a big box office month. It’s one of those months like April or September that just do not seem to stand out. However, recent years have seen anomalous films achieve huge returns in just about every month. March seems to be a new tentpole season, and just last year Deadpool smashed the February opening weekend record by a mile. The year before, Fifty Shades of Grey had similarly attained a new February record. And the year before that had The LEGO Movie (that was three years ago!?). Hey, guess which two sequels opened this February?

2017 is not off to a great start. But enough about politics; January was down at the box office compared to recent years. February unfortunately continued that streak, as there was just under $500 million in receipts compared with about $700 million the previous three years. This puts 2017 as a whole over 20 percent behind 2016! The sequels mentioned above opened below their previous entries, so hopes must be riding high for March entries like Logan, Kong and Beauty and the Beast. Consider also that the real best picture winner, Moonlight, is the lowest grossing winner since The Hurt Locker. The academy deserves kudos for choosing a film that is definitely not typical for them, but in terms of box office, there is not much momentum so far this year.

Our number one earner for February was The LEGO Batman Movie, where the Dark Plastic Knight finally flew out from his dour cave and became a comedy sensation. It achieved the largest opening weekend of the month, $53 million, and went on the earn $135.4 million for the whole month. It certainly has a long life ahead where small children endlessly watch it on repeat on DVD or streaming. Although it is trending below the original LEGO Movie by about $50 million, consider how that film outperformed expectations. Everything is awesome for the LEGO movie universe, with yet another entry slated for this year, The LEGO NINJAGO Movie.

Second place is masochism to LEGO’s sadism, or is it the other way around? Fifty Shades Darker banged its way to $105.2 million for the month, with the second largest opening weekend of $46.6 million. This movie series seems inevitably headed for the same fate as Divergent, but until then, these sloppy seconds are still sucking in the big bucks. Fool me twice, I suppose.

Something was in the water the weekend of February 10th, because the top three earners for the month, as well as three of the top four opening weekends, all occurred on that date. Number three is John Wick: Chapter 2, part of the career resurgence that seems to occur for Keanu Reeves once every decade. The very well reviewed action flick opened with $30.4 million, and it was still third at the box office this past weekend, ringing up $76.7 million for the month. This sequel is pacing well ahead of its predecessor, and could wind up making double in both domestic and international markets.

Our number four earner for the shortest month is a holdover, the surprise hit Split. After the largest opening last month, Split has taken in $50.3 million this month, bringing the Blumhouse-produced film (i.e., tiny budget) to a domestic total of $131.5 million. There should be a sequel coming titled The Unbreakable Kimmy Split.

Fifth is another holdover, a movie that has been extremely well received by audiences. The best picture nominee Hidden Figures did not win any oscars, but it is the highest grossing (wide) release of 2017. February saw it earn $47.2 million, bringing its domestic total over $150 million. LEGO Batman will soon overtake it as the highest grossing release of the year, before at least one of the blockbusters in March takes the crown.

The movie that holds sixth place for the month is only held back by the fact that it just opened. The number three opening weekend belongs to Get Out, which triumphed with a per screen average of over $10,000, an opening weekend of $33.38 million, and a monthly total of $42.4 million. This film is performing way above expectations and should chug along all through March, as an incredible directing debut from Jordan Peele. It also happens to be another huge success story for Blumhouse Productions. By the way, it was 100% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, until a certain critic gave it a lousy review. Guess who it was? Why is life’s irony meter pegged at “insanity” right now?

Now we fall to some of the lesser films of February. Seventh is A Dog’s Purpose, a movie that had to contend with some fake bad press, but still achieved a modest amount of $37.6 million for the month after opening at the end of January. Eighth is The Great Wall, where it seems they really wanted Leonardo DiCaprio but had to settle for Matt Damon (look at the poster!). Jimmy Kimmel must be laughing himself silly. The Chinese co-production only managed $36.6 million for the month, about double its opening weekend. But like last year’s Warcraft, expect this film to make most of its coin in China, something that will probably become more and more common. The only difference is this film was made for Chinese audiences, another trend that should become more common.

Our last two films are La La Land, destined to be famous for not winning best picture, and Rings, a sequel that will quickly be forgotten. LLL, one letter away from a hate group, made $33 million for the month, and it looks like it will not quite make it to the level of Chicago box office or Oscar-wise (although they both won six). Rings made $27.4 million, which is about a hundred million under what the first film made 15 years ago. In case you were wondering, A Cure for Wellness was the 18th highest grossing film for the month, with $7.8 million, so at least Rings has that going for it (Gore Verbinski had a rough month).

To round out the top ten openers that debuted in February, add Fist Fight, the aforementioned A Cure for Wellness, The Space Between Us, and Rock Dog. Yeah, it was hard just to find ten films that opened this February. Had you even heard of Rock Dog? It had better be an animated film starring Jack Black. Let us hope that March delivers big time, as 2017 is looking as bleak as the United States has been warm (or California has been wet). At least we can say both months have delivered surprisingly great films in Hidden Figures and Get Out. Will Logan be the next?