It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, no, winter has definitely arrived, and the White Walkers just killed Jon Snow and Daenerys. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. August of this year has been the bad end to a dismal summer. There were the usual highs and lows, but a sinking tide lowers all boats. However, if studios can make it appear that any film does not earn a profit, let us mix things up with our own underhanded math to show a brighter side to this month’s box office. Entertainment has never been bigger, never been seen by more people in the world, and the future is very bright. What place did movies hold for August of this year?
August 2017 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
September 7, 2017
1*) Wolf Warrior 2
Opening Weekend: $141.8 million
Monthly Total: $800 million (approx.)
Many of you may be making the sound Tim Allen is famous for right now. Typically, this column only looks at domestic box office for rankings, but for this month I decided to make an exception to highlight the changing times. This is the number one “domestic” movie in China. How many of you had even heard of this film? Wolf Warrior is a Chinese film that opened in 2015 and earned about $90 million, almost all of it in China. Wolf Warrior 2 is similarly going to earn almost all of its money in China, but the growth is staggering. Imagine if The Emoji Movie had a sequel that earned as much as The Force Awakens. Simply put, Wolf Warrior 2 may beat records that things like Star Wars and James Cameron used to own. It will probably become the film with the highest box office from a single country (beating The Force Awakens’ $936 million), and it could even become the first film to earn over $1 billion in a single country. In stark contrast to the situation here in the states, Wolf Warrior 2 alone earned more than all the combined movie theaters across North America in August. Maybe MoviePass IS the answer.
1) Annabelle: Creation
Opening Weekend: $35 million
Monthly Total: $81.7 million
Back here across the pond, we all flocked to see the latest horror film in the Conjuring anthology, a series of modern horror films that appear to be better than they have any right to be. Credit James Wan for much of the success here, as he has steered this series well, although he only produced this film. The Conjuring films have all been produced for relatively small budgets and each earn close to $100 million, collecting a tidy profit. Annabelle: Creation will probably wind up close to that figure by the time it exits theaters.
Should Annabelle: Creation not reach the century mark, it would confirm just how weak August was. It is exceedingly rare to have an August without a $100 million dollar earner. Usually studios put out edgier fare or a blockbuster gamble, and something sticks. The past few years had big hits with Suicide Squad, Straight Outta Compton, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The last August with a film that didn’t earn $100 million ultimately was way back in 2000, with Space Cowboys only earning $90.5 million. And don’t you dare ask me about adjusting for inflation. That movie had too many old people jokes to begin with.
Monthly Total: $70 million
One of the bright spots of the summer, and of August, is Christopher Nolan’s historic masterpiece Dunkirk, coasting on a familiar trajectory for the auteur blockbuster director. After opening well, the holds have been great for this Nolan film, as his audiences tend to be older and more film savvy. This one has earned about $180 million domestic so far, and will creep very close to $200 million, a great total for a budget of $100 million. Internationally is where this might fall behind his recent efforts like Interstellar, as it has accrued $280 million so far, whereas his space epic had almost twice as much. However, Interstellar had a much bigger budget, so Dunkirk is another big success and there seems to be no stopping Nolan and his style of both storytelling and filmmaking. The only question for his next movie is: will Michael Caine be in it?
3) The Emoji Movie
Monthly Total: $50.5 million
August was so bad, the number two and three spots for the month are occupied by holdovers, and #3 is the equivalent of :). Save your twenty bucks, and plop the kids in front of YouTube searching for funny cat videos -
unless you were hoping this was somehow going to be genius, like the altered state that was Sausage Party last year. Let’s be honest. The Emoji Movie did about as well as any Sony executive could have hoped, as its domestic total is over $80 million, and about the same overseas, with a slim $50 million budget. If anything, this shows how desperate families were for entertainment this month (see #10) and that a high profile studio really needs to block off late summer for a big kids movie.
4) The Dark Tower
Opening Weekend: $19.2 million
Monthly Total: $45.8 million
There’s a month in 2017 with a Stephen King adaptation. It will be a great hit. It will have imagery that haunts you. This is not that month. The misfire that is the 20-year gestating project adapting King’s magnum opus could barely fizzle out of the gate. You would think enough people had read this guy's books and/or love Idris Elba to push this one just a little further. But the stink must have been on this one, as it opened to mediocre numbers and will quickly be forgotten. Ron Howard (saving all manner of projects these days) is producing the TV series that also stars Elba, so perhaps by then everyone will just assume this was a big episode one and jump on board when the quality arrives. Although seriously, if they were making a show, and it already stars that guy, and the movie sucks, and…why did anyone even bother? Either way, King doesn’t have to wait long for his next check, as the remake of IT appears right about now and has a stellar 89% fresh rating!
5) The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Opening Weekend: $21.4 million
Monthly Total: $44.7 million
I think we all love Samuel L. Jackson, and I always had a soft spot for Ryan Reynolds, even before Deadpool. So it seems quite natural that putting these two together results in a decent film with decent box office. Leave it to a month like this, though, that it can also be remembered for being #1 at the box office for three weekends in a row, and probably 21 days in a row. With a slim $30 million dollar budget, this continues an August trend in that there were no outright bombs, mostly because the budgets were all so low. In fact, most movies this August will probably turn a profit. The buddy genre is alive and well, and it is always good to see well-loved actors team up.
6) Girls Trip
Monthly Total: $42.1 million
The outlier success among R-rated comedies this summer is Universal’s Girl’s Trip, the raunchy complement to other summer classics like Bridesmaids and The Hangover. Girl’s Trip opened with Dunkirk back in July, and counter-programmed beautifully, hauling over $110 million domestic so far. A rumored sequel is in the works, and movies like this and Hidden Figures show how lucrative high quality films can be for African-American audiences. This is also another feather in Universal’s cap for the year, and is by far director Malcolm D. Lee’s biggest movie after The Best Man Holiday.
7) Spider-man: Homecoming
Monthly Total: $40.4 million
Another big summer success story is the seventh highest earner for the month, as the web slinger has finally come back into the public’s good graces by teaming up with none other than Iron Man and friends. Homecoming’s box office may not be blowing records up like previous entries, but it steadies the ship, earning a powerful $325 million domestic and more than that abroad. The endless grasp of the MCU continues to broaden, and Disney and Sony can both claim some sort of win (will a Spider-Man ride show up at Disney World now instead of residing at Universal?).
8) Atomic Blonde
Monthly Total: $29.4 million
Charlize Theron’s kick-ass genre fest has managed some decent numbers in August, considering some thought its opening weekend was a bit disappointing. Comparing it to the original John Wick, sharing co-director David Leitch, it actually has outgrossed it slightly both domestic and abroad, although it cost slightly more. Tally a win up overall, and Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves help carry the mantle of the older action hero now that Liam Neeson is probably a bit too old. Or maybe he just wants you to think that so you’ll let your guard down.
Opening Weekend: $10 million
Monthly Total: $27.7 million
Didn’t I see this movie a few years back? Halle Barry stars in this thriller that makes me sense déjà vu for The Call from 2013. This one opened relatively low but has managed to surpass it’s $21 million budget, so call it another low key success for August. Maybe for David Leitch’s next movie, Halle Barry should sign up?
10) Despicable Me: 3
Monthly Total: $24.2 million
The final top ten earner for August is a film that came out way back in the land of June. Despicable Me 3 has probably done better than it normally would due to the lack of competition with regards to children’s fare, and therefore it actually has now surpassed the gross of the original Despicable Me, accruing $258 million and counting. In fact, it is still in the top ten up until this weekend.
For a list of the top ten movies that actually opened in August, add the Nut Job 2, Logan Lucky, Detroit, The Glass Castle, Wind River, and Leap! What that shows is a few things. First of all, given the big top ten list above, you might think, “Wow, this is a pretty decent slate of films.” But then look how many films had to be added just to make a top ten for August openers. Over half of the money earned in August was by movies that opened in July, which is not normal (in June over 80% was earned by June openers). That is why numbers were down across the board, because no matter how big movies open in July, by August they can only be earning a percentage of their opening weekend. You need constant new product entering, because most people do not feel that urge where they have to go to a theater and see something no matter what (me!). That’s why August 2017 looks to be down about 26% by my count from last year, contributing to a summer that is down almost 15% from last year! Variety just said this was the worst summer for movies in a decade, and that’s without adjusting for inflation.
Luckily, the last four months have some big hitters. But then again, so did this summer. It’s the middle class that counts in many ways…