On this edition of Fake News O’Clock, I am getting reports that the movie star is officially dead. Killed by an abundance of high concept movies, with lousy scripts dragging them down, and a declining box office creating a sinking tide that lowers all boats. Doom and gloom, more after these commercials.
June 2017 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
July 6, 2017
Seriously, what does it take for a movie star to open a big blockbuster these days? The month of June, well into the summer movie season and at a point where kids are off from school, typically sees some fairly large numbers. The biggest movies of the year never seem to open in June, Jurassic World notwithstanding, but it sees very respectable totals. This year, though, seems to continue that and another trend of underwhelming properties, where the whole franchise concept seems a bit thin (studios are putting way too many eggs into that basket). Luckily, as in May, there was a bright spot that commanded attention and rightfully so.
1) Wonder Woman
Opening Weekend: $103.3 million
Monthly Total: $334.9 million
The number one film for June is Wonder Woman, which opened for sneak peeks the very first day of the month and is still going strong. This property reminds me a bit of Iron Man from 2008; a major studio was trying a new direction, putting out an origin story for a big if not huge name, then stellar reviews start pouring in, buzz builds, and a $100 million opening weekend seems to come out of no where, as well as really good legs. Remember when Iron Man was not a household name? Could Wonder Woman conceivably be the foundation of a better DC universe? I suppose we will find out later this year with Justice League. If it is good, who do we laud; Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon (feels like when J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek and Star Wars), or Patty Jenkins?
Gal Gadot and Jenkins hit a home run with Wonder Woman, and it should finish close to $400 million if it keeps dropping just over 30% each weekend. This makes it the most successful DC film since Nolan’s Batman trilogy, giving Warner Bros. a much needed shot in the arm since many of their other ventures have not been successful to some degree. Unlike May, the top films in June were not as top heavy, as Wonder Woman earned about a third of the money whereas Guardians earned almost half of the box office in May.
2) Cars 3
Opening Weekend: $53.7 million
Monthly Total: $114.3 million
The next few films on this list are part of that growing trend this year; most franchise films are losing money with each new iteration, at least on the domestic front (and sometimes internationally as well). Sequels and remakes and reboots (and maybe soon they’ll just clone movies) have not been doing as well as they used to. Cars 3 displays this trend, as the movie franchise hasn’t really taken off, while the merchandise is raking in unconscionable amounts of money. Cars 4 could just be a sock puppet show, and still provide Disney with the same vault full of money. However, even Disney’s duds earn some money this year, keeping their studio well ahead of the others when it comes to box office dominance. Cars 3 should easily eclipse The Good Dinosaur to become Pixar’s second lowest box office performer, still quite a feat considering they have been making films for over 20 years.
3) Transformers: The Last Knight
Opening Weekend: $44.7 million
Monthly Total: $90 million
This amazing biopic, the second about King Arthur this summer, is surely vying for Anthony Hopkins next Oscar, and Mark Wahlberg could upset the race for best actor. Unless Bumblebee wins. It’s really anyone’s guess. Anyway, the fifth film in this franchise appears to finally have audiences catching on to the bad reviews and simplistic nature of these movies. Bayhem can satisfy a craving, but serving the same meal five times in a row is a little much. This type of box office trajectory spells potential doom for this hugely expensive franchise unless a reboot a la Fast and Furious or Spiderman is in order. Transformers is still a huge name, but nothing is eternal or invincible. Just ask the Terminator.
4) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Monthly Total: $74.2 million
The first holdover, and another sequel with falling numbers, is our third place finisher in June. The fifth Pirates film, and yet probably not the last, is throwing well below any of the previous films, earning $74.2 million in June for a domestic total of $163.8 million so far. This and Transformers are the fifth entries in their respective franchises, and that seems to be where they wear out their welcome. With international numbers also below previous entries, this could similarly signal that Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer try a new angle, perhaps without Johnny Depp. But since I hear a fifth Indiana Jones movie is being made with Harrison Ford, I bet within four years we’ll see grandpa Depp (still looking eerily like young Depp), swaggering his way through green screen carnage.
5) The Mummy
Opening Weekend: $31.7 million
Monthly Total: $72.6 million
If this was 1999, then this movie would be doing great! Brendan Fraser has a nice long career ahead of him as a leading man. I hear Dudley Do-Right is next up for this rising star. But, alas, it is nearly 20 years later, and this modern opening weekend is only about three quarters of what that 20th Century film managed almost 20 years ago! Tom Cruise is actually within his ballpark with this opening, as The Mummy has the third highest opening of his last ten films. Universal had to have been hoping the name recognition of the film would bump it towards Mission: Impossible territory, and don’t expect this Mummy to have any legs as reviews have been pretty abysmal. Universal’s hopes of a Dark Universe may not be totally dashed, as they have had failures before, but the obvious plant of Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll for future monster films may not play out as intended.
6) Captain Underpants
Opening Weekend: $23.9 million
Monthly Total: $68.5 million
DreamWorks’ final film being distributed by Fox is actually a resounding success, mostly because the budget was uncharacteristically low for a Dreamwork’s Animation film. The decent reviews don’t hurt either, since DreamWorks has seemingly been in a bit of a lull for years, unable to recapture the magic of How to Train Your Dragon or Shrek. Their sale to Universal probably will not impact this, but perhaps the continuation of their better franchises can lift their fortunes. Kung Fu Panda and the aforementioned properties could still have great films to come. As for Underpants, it probably arrived a bit after the peak of the books’ popularity, not to mention the fact that most of the book’s readers have aged outside its demographic, so this has to be seen as about the best result possible.
7) All Eyez on Me
Opening Weekend: $26.4 million
Monthly Total: $41.4 million
The makers of All Eyez on Me must have been hoping for an opening as large as Straight Outta Compton, but have to settle for a decent result. Bad reviews probably didn’t hold this one too far back, but they certainly didn’t help. The Tupac biopic dropped huge in weekend two, so fifty million is about as high as this will go. With a Biggie Smalls documentary on the way, interest in the early years of rap and hip hop remains high. After Compton’s surprise Oscar nomination and big returns, hopefully talent keeps being drawn to these stories.
8) Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
Monthly Total: $37.9 million
One good thing about this June is that there was mostly new product in theaters during the month, leading to overall better totals. The second holdover from May is our eighth place finisher for June, as what is currently the number one film of the summer keeps playing strong. Guardians opened bigger and has played bigger than it’s origin film, similar to Iron Man 3 compared to its predecessors. Although it has surprisingly not expanded with regards to international box office, it is still highly commendable that Guardians Vol. 2 is the fifth highest domestic earner in the MCU. With a Vol. 3 playlist just teased by James Gunn, expect the adventure to continue (but please take note of what happened to Pirates and Transformers!)
9) 47 Meters Down
Opening Weekend: $11.2 million
Monthly Total: $29.3 million
I thought this was the long awaited sequel to Chariots of Fire! Darn! Or to The Abyss. Actually, this film is practically a twin to the movie that came out exactly a year ago, The Shallows. Both involve women trapped in the water by sharks; one on a rock, two in a cage underwater. The Shallows probably will retain the box office crown for this sub-genre (get it?), as it’s really tough to do a one-trick pony show twice and except people to come. When will someone flip the genre, and do a film from the shark’s point of view? It’s like Harold and Kumar, but even more desperate.
10) Despicable Me 3
Monthly Total: $29 million
Despite being out for a grand total of one day (with previews), Despicable Me 3 is the tenth highest earner in June, and will certainly be one of the big earners in July. Universal has two bright spots; The Fast and the Furious franchise, and Illumination Entertainment. I smell crossover! I think every month I spell out some random Minions crossover, but having Dom racing Minions could entail a Who Framed Roger Rabbit level of live-action/animated hijinks. Minions! Hijinks! Come on! Anyway, as ever, diminishing returns is the name of the game, as even after just a few days out we can tell Despicable Me 3 will not be performing as well as the first two films, let alone the Minions movie. Some are comparing the box office returns to the Shrek franchise, so Illumination better come up with some new properties and ideas, especially as they essentially own DreamWorks now!
So overall, what does June 2017 tell us with regards to box office? Well, if you make a really good movie, it stands a chance of breaking out, whether it is a small film or tentpole blockbuster. If you make multiple mediocre films, especially as part of a franchise, you have diminishing returns. High concepts and movie stars do not really factor much into the equation anymore. People seem to be going out to movies to see things they know ahead of time are good, that they will enjoy, and not simply occupy their eyeballs for two hours. As more and more quality comes to television (whatever that word means anymore, kind of like the word phone), movie theaters are going to keep sliding downwards on the scale of importance. June was not a bad month by any means, but just as in May there was really only one success story. With a small popcorn costing eight bucks at some theaters, I feel like the squeeze is getting tighter and tighter. July is typically huge, so we’ll see if multiple films can break out as buzz is already loud for many of the studios’ tentpoles.