October 2017 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
November 7, 2017

Robot Fever!

2017 has been like a horror film for many reasons. In regards to movie theater box office, just when you thought the killer was dead, he lurches out of the shower and tries to strangle you. Ironically, it was a horror film that saved the box office for a month, but here in the scary month of October the best we can manage is a Madea fright fest. Such are the fortunes of war, though it appears to be a losing battle this year. The fate of many films and filmmakers this month was to fall below expectations, in some cases well below. We had a sequel to a beloved sci-fi classic disappoint, although perhaps it is simply following in its predecessor’s footsteps. We had a seasoned actor/director helm a picture written by some of Hollywood’s best, only to watch it fall flat on its face. We had old friends from the previous twenty five years make their triumphant returns, just to see them greeted with a collective shrug. All told, I am not sure there was a truly good story about movies this month. I suppose we can enjoy the fact that there are still some incredible movies and TV shows, but what does it mean if no one watches them? Of course, the biggest movie news this month was really the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case, and how it may have permanently turned a corner with regards to that culture both within Hollywood and without. If cable/Facebook/Twitter news had box office this year, I think at least that would be setting records.

1) Blade Runner 2049

Opening Weekend: $32.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $82.5 M

At the beginning of this month as buzz was building for this film, expectations were quickly becoming meteoric. It felt like Mad Max: Fury Road all over again; a beloved film from the 1980’s was finally getting a sequel, with some of the old blood and some of the new. The cherry on top was how rapturous the reviews were for both leading up to their releases. Alas, where Mad Max opened well and had good legs, earning an unbelievable Best Picture nomination to boot, Blade Runner 2049 has simply mimicked its origin film, with box office that is overall disappointing. Oddly enough, the opening weekend for 2049 appears to match the domestic total for the 1982 film (including the many rereleases). 2049 has a budget that could be anywhere from $150 million to $200 million, and with a disappointing open in China as well, there appears to be little hope for this one.

Even as the number one film in a lackluster month, the numbers are still not very good. It could be that a release around this time of year did little to boost 2049’s fortunes, although IT was able to capitalize on a void in theaters. Perhaps dystopia is simply a bit out of fashion since no one really wants to know how much worse it’s going to get. Either way, Ridley Scott’s efforts to revisit his most important films at the end of his career is not having the impact he likely desired. Time will tell, in the end, as the great reviews and generally positive reception of 2049 may give it a long shelf life after it exits theaters. Maybe that Blade Runner VR experience hints at new ways to explore this setting going forward.

2) Happy Death Day

Opening Weekend: $26 M
Monthly Total: $49.5 M

If anyone is having a good year, or a good October, it is Jason Blum. This year he has released three films, Split, Get Out and now Happy Death Day, that cost a combined thirteen dollars and seventy two cents, and have earned about twenty six million times their production budget. My numbers may not be factually correct, but they feel just right, and in this day and age I go with my gut. Think about how amazing it is that if you average Blum’s three films’ opening weekends, the number is higher than Blade Runner’s debut, a movie that was highly anticipated for months if not years. I think Russian bots are manipulating people into seeing his films. Happy Death Day will not approach the incredible numbers that Get Out and Split achieved, but it will still be earning over ten times its budget. If only they could have given Bill Murray a cameo...

3) IT

Monthly Box Office: $37.9 M

This is the movie we deserved during the Halloween season! Luckily for IT, there was not a lot of competition at the box office this month, so it was able to hang around and add to its impressive total. After earning close to $300 million in September, IT added a decent amount in October to put it right near $325 million domestic, which it will earn by the time you read this. It has become the fourth highest grossing R-rated film of all time, behind Passion of the Christ, Deadpool, and American Sniper (what an interesting assortment of titles), as well as the highest grossing horror film by a margin of about $100 million over The Exorcist. Amazingly enough, the third highest grossing R-Rated horror film also came out this year: Get Out. Even if you include The Sixth Sense as a horror film (not rated R) IT still comes out on top. With a worldwide total more than doubling it’s domestic take, IT is a huge success. It will be in the top 50 domestic films of all time if it can earn $8 million more to sneak past the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

4) Boo 2: A Madea Halloween!

Opening Weekend: $21.2M
Monthly Box Office: $37.5 M

Tyler Perry is bulletproof, especially when he brings out Madea. Although not quite as lucrative as Jason Blum, Perry generally makes films with low budgets, and this should be the eighth Madea title to earn over $50 million domestic. Boo 2: Electric Boogaloo will wind up on the lower end of his Madea films, and will underperform the original Boo that came out just over a year ago. That film became the second highest grossing Madea film at $73 million, so it would appear that making sequels to his films is not a winning formula for Perry, especially only a year later. Either way, expect to see Madea about once a year as Perry continues to make movies for an underserved audience.

5) American Made

Monthly Box Office: $36.2 M

What could be scarier than watching Tom Cruise around Halloween? Oh, you were asking about movies. Anyway, Cruise’s CIA man of drug running action is going to fall on the lower end of his output, as American Made squeezes out a $50 million domestic total. The good news is that that was also the budget, and with Cruise’s international appeal will earn about twice that from foreign screens. Doug Liman and Cruise could not replicate their success from Edge of Tomorrow, although both films received good reviews and positive reception, so they have that going for them. Speaking of which, I wonder why Liman did not wind up directing the next Mission: Impossible film, as that would seem a perfect fit. Christopher McQuarrie will helm M:I 6 once again, Cruise’s next film due this summer. Would you believe the man is 55 years old?

6) Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle

Monthly Box Office: $35.5 M

As we get to the sixth highest grossing film for October, notice that half of the films are holdovers from September. Another trend is the 2017 habit of sequels underperforming their previous entries, which applies to Kingsman. Made for a bit more than the original, and opening a bit higher, this one will peter out just a hair over $100 million, about a third lower than the initial entry. The good news is that both appealed to international audiences, as they will each earn over $400 million worldwide. The spy and action genre is certainly alive and well, and Kingsman has carved out a nice little niche for second tier properties. A third film has already been green lit.

7) The Foreigner

Opening Weekend: $13.1 M
Monthly Box Office: $29.9 M

Jackie Chan returns to live action for the first time since 2010’s Karate Kid, but the end result will be quickly forgotten. Maybe they should have gone with the novel’s original name, The Chinaman. I mean, when your tag line is “A blah-blah man with a buried past seeks justice”, I think the job of screenwriter should just be handed over to AI at this point. Regardless, Chan and director Martin Campbell have a miss, and this continues a string of misses for Campbell since his triumphant return to Bond with Casino Royale. Jackie Chan, although forever enshrined in film history by his amazing output, is probably in or beyond the twilight of his career. The nostalgia for 1980’s everything these days keeps trying to bring everything back from that era, but perhaps the actors should not be a part of the package. That worked well with Mad Max, and Blade Runner split the difference. Sometimes loving something means letting go. We’ll never forget you Jackie! Never!

8) The Mountain Between Us

Opening Weekend: $10.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $28.3 M

Occasionally you see a trailer for a film, and something just seems a bit...off. The Mountain Between Us looks like a film that is simple and straight forward; two people crash in the mountains, and have to survive. Cue cannibalism. But it seems like the writers looked at what they had, decided it needed something more, and shoe-horned in a romance. I mean, do what you have to to survive, but I imagine more carnal instincts surface while stranded in snowy mountains, not wining and dining. It appears that movie goers felt the same way, as this film opened low considering the star power, and will not earn back it’s relatively small $35 million budget. Idris Elba has not been having a good year, although he totally deserves one (is he still being considered for the next Bond?), and writer Chris Weitz struck out after back to back successes with Cinderella and Rogue One. And if director Hany Abu-Assad is trying to make his way from Israel to Hollywood, this is not his vehicle for success.

9) Geostorm

Opening Weekend: $13.7 M
Monthly Box Office: $24.9 M

Excuse me while I pick myself off the floor after having a laughing fit at this movie. I mean, I am someone who is completely on board with man-made climate change, and this movie causes me extreme eye roll syndrome. Apologies to everyone involved, but what in God’s name were you thinking? Warner Bros. especially intrigues me, as I love that they keep giving lots of money to some risky filmmaking, but sometimes it’s as though they are unable to see the obvious. Geostorm reminds me of Jupiter Ascending, another WB financial disaster that confounds all reason. I suppose there is a Yin to every Yang, as this year WB has gambled and won with Wonder Woman, Dunkirk and IT, while stumbling with Blade Runner, King Arthur, and now Geostorm. Dean Devlin, forging ahead without Roland Emmerich for some reason, continues trying to destroy the world. Maybe he can direct a Gray Goo movie next (look it up). At least international audiences seem to still lap this up (I can only imagine the amazing dubs for this film), but the totals will still be far less than this film requires to get into the black. Dean and Roland, stop, stop this now.

10) LEGO: Ninjago Movie

Monthly Box Office: $24.8 M

Rounding out the top ten for October is last month’s LEGO movie, which is Jackie Chan’s other near-miss for the month. This movie feels like one of those titles that should have been released on home video only, as the audience never showed up to theaters. This is pretty surprising, considering the dearth of good children’s fare in the recent past. The last big kid’s movie was Despicable Me 3 which opened June 30th! (Let us never speak of anything emoji related). It is up to Coco to bring back the youngins, or perhaps as I myself have seen in evidence, the new younger generation has some trouble paying attention to one thing for an hour and a half. I mean, I am a millennial and I get blamed for everything, so it’s time I start complaining about the next generation for something. Back in my day you either saw a movie on the big screen or waited six months for a $20 copy on VHS to watch on a 14-inch combo TV/VCR! And you watched that damn thing two hundred times until you wore out the tape. What a time...

To complete the top ten October films that opened in this month add Jigsaw, My Little Pony, Only the Brave and The Snowman. It feels bad that Only the Brave had pretty rapturous reviews, but opened much lower than expected. Perhaps it should have aimed for awards season, something I never thought I would say about a Joseph Kosinski film. As for MLP, at least it will earn more than the 1986 film, but we all wonder why the power of the bronies did not materialize. And although it did not officially open this month, Victoria and Abdul did earn about $17 million in October, quietly flying under the radar the way good independent films do. Can you believe there’s an outside chance it outgrosses Geostorm? I suppose I should toss in a mention of Suburbicon here, simply because the Coen brothers, George Clooney and Matt Damon could only open a movie to $3 million.

October’s top twenty films came in just under half a billion, at $497 million, which is one of the lower monthly totals for the 10th month. Last year was about equally bad, but you would then have to travel all the way back to 2007 to find another total that low. Perhaps Blade Runner could have performed closer to The Martian in another universe, and buoyed totals somewhat, but that was not to be. Sometimes films just pass us by and fade into the background, like tears in the rain. November looks to be in much better shape, however, given the totals for Thor and the expected success of Coco and Justice League. I am, however, skeptical of Kenneth Branaugh’s latest, Murder on the Orient Express, as it gives me that Mountain Between Us Vibe (#mountainbetweenusvibe). It does allow for the second film to be released in 70mm this year, however, which is very cool.