February 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

March 9, 2018

During his deeply soulful phase.

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With February 2018 (and a few days in March), the book can truly be closed on 2017. The final movies of last year are hanging on to the top 10 by a thread, albeit an absurdly long thread. The Oscars also delivered, spreading the wealth out to a wide array of films, which goes to show that 2017 had a little something for everyone. This past month also delivered a truly monstrous blockbuster, and opened the story for 2018 in a massive way. We have the first film outside of summer and the holiday season to open over $200 million. We also saw the continued performance of two of the leggiest films since at least Avatar. Plus, whether MoviePass had anything to do with it or not, December awards films all picked up a small chunk of change this past month, earning between $6 to $18 million.

1) Black Panther

Opening Weekend: $202 M
Monthly Box Office: $428.8 M

On the face of it, Black Panther has very similar box office statistics to Star Wars: the Last Jedi. Both opened with over $200 million, becoming the fourth and fifth films to ever achieve that milestone. Both have been among the top five fastest films to earn $300, $400, and $500 million dollars (on average they are 1 day apart), and both will enter the top ten for domestic and likely worldwide grosses. If you looked solely at their box office and rotten tomatoes score, you would think they are near equals. But their stories seem to be told in very different fashion, as Last Jedi has been perceived as a bit of a miss, whereas Black Panther is seen as a heraldic film for Marvel, ushering in a black superhero in about the biggest way imaginable (Blade who?).

Black Panther exploded onto the scene in every way imaginable, topping even the most optimistic of expectations leading up to opening day. It has easily become the second most successful Marvel film, and in some ways it is the biggest. It’s opening weekend theater average was almost $3,000 higher than The Avengers, it’s weekend to weekend drops have been smaller, and it is currently pacing over $40 million ahead of what was seen as the high point of comic book cinema. I think this is truly when we see the MCU contest Star Wars for franchise dominance, and even take a bit of a lead between Black Panther and Infinity War. Of course, Disney is laughing all the way to the bank either way. Black Panther is simply a huge success, and really struck a chord at the perfect moment with cinema audiences.

2) Fifty Shades Freed

Opening Weekend: $38.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $91.7 M

Between this and Death Wish, which film is most unsuitable for the moment? I suppose technically what happens in the Fifty Shades series is consensual, although I don’t think even that allows us to forgive it. We might already have this year’s Calvin award for Worst Picture in the bag! Whereas the first film opened to huge numbers (yet could not even whip a 2.0 multiplier from it), numbers two and three in this saga of romance and leather plummeted back to the dungeon. Numero tres must feel some pleasure, or pain, in that it has dropped only a little in terms of opening weekend and domestic box office, by close to ten percent on either score. At least they didn’t split the final book into two movies.

3) Peter Rabbit

Opening Weekend: $25 M
Monthly Box Office: $73.5 M

Call me old-fashioned, but I did not see my childhood Peter Rabbit in the trailer for this film. Even so, Peter managed to open and will finish over twice as high as Paddington 2, despite worse reviews and skewing towards more juvenile humor. I suppose when reviews are at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, there really is no point seeing the film because you already know it is marvelous. But the garden hijinks of a bunch of animated troublemakers (Sherlock Gnomes anyone?) tickled just the right funny bone to become the big family hit of the month, and of 2018 so far. Of course, that means ignoring the elephant in the room that was our next film, redefining the word holdover when it comes to modern box office behavior!

4) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Monthly Box Office: $47.6M

I think when Dwayne Johnson has his next films open this year, Skyscraper and Rampage, Jumanji will still be in the top ten. It was the number one, two, or three film at the box office every day in January. In February it dropped as low as sixth place, and so far in March it has hung on to seventh and eighth positions. It will be a full three months before Jumanji drops out of the top ten, a feat not seen since Avatar dropped to twelfth place on its 99th day on the charts (Jumanji is on day 76 as of Monday). The open to domestic multiplier is close to 11 right now as it inches its way to $400 million, and conceivably becomes the biggest film in Sony’s history. Only Spider-Man, from about seven reboots ago, achieved a higher mark of $403 million, but given that Jumanji has not seen a weekend drop higher than 32% my money is on Jumanji. Not to mention it’s 4th through 6th, and 8th and 9th weekends are among the top ten of all time. This is practically the 2010’s equivalent of E.T. when it comes to legs.

5) The 15:17 to Paris

Opening Weekend: $12.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $33.3 M

Why did this movie do so poorly compared to Clint Eastwood’s prior true-life story about military service members? Why did a sequel to a 1995 mediocre film become the second biggest hit in a studio’s history (so far)? These are the questions that keep me up at night. 15:17 certainly did not have the glowing reviews of American Sniper, nor that important first word in the title, nor a lead character who died serving his fellow men. But that still does not answer why 15:17 opened with about a seventh of Sniper’s bow, or why it will end up with about a tenth of Sniper’s final domestic total. Regardless, this and last month’s 12 Strong have very similar numbers, which shows just how much of an anomaly American Sniper was.


6) The Greatest Showman

Monthly Box Office: $32.7 M

If you think Jumanji had great legs, well let me tell you about legs that really never end. I truly think E.T. was the last film that opened so small and earned in the hundreds of millions (Oh, wait, there was that ethnic wedding movie). Showman debuted at the same time as Jumanji, and opened to paltry single digits that would normally have destroyed this film’s budget of $85 million. However it stayed at position four...and stayed at position four, and never left fourth place on the charts for almost the entire month of January. It started in fourth place in February, the same space as its opening weekend forty days earlier. Like Jumanji, it has yet to fall out of the top ten, and while opening with about 25% of Jumanji’s open, Showman has now earned over 40% of Jumanji’s total. It has an insane multiplier of 18.3 as of the end of February, and could definitely approach the number 20. By the end of its run, The Greatest Showman will likely be the third biggest musical of all time behind only Beauty and the Beast and Grease (not counting Sound of Music and it’s many rereleases).

7) Maze Runner: the Death Cure

Monthly Box Office: $28 M

Not to sound too cynical, but MR: TDC is only here because it opened in the last few days of January. This film has seen reduced returns, about 30% lower than the previous entry, and just over half of the original film. All three have earned around $300 million worldwide, though, so there has not been quite as much bleeding as it may seem. The long delay due to the lead actor’s on set injuries certainly did not help, but it probably did not have as negative an impact as it could have, considering how films like the Divergent series have been performing. All in all, it was good fortune that allowed this series to finish at all, and on a relatively decent note.

8) Winchester

Opening Weekend: $9.3 M
Monthly Box Office: $24 M

Now I understand why Helen Mirren was drinking on the red carpet. Last year we had the one-two punch of Split and Get Out, but this year we had much lesser horror and thriller fare with the latest Insidious movie and Mirren’s Winchester. It appears she was game for some fun, as this film cost a paltry few million to make, so all things considered it may have the largest profit of any film this month! Gothic-style horror films have not lit the box office on fire for a while now, and this is no exception.

9) Game Night

Opening Weekend: $17 M
Monthly Box Office: $21.6M

Game Night might wind up on next month’s list, as it opened late but still had the fourth biggest opening weekend for February. The well-reviewed broad comedy looks headed for a decent run, and could be Rachel McAdam’s and Jason Bateman’s biggest live action movie in years (not including Doctor Strange). It has just about earned its budget back, and might give a little extra push for the Clue remake with Ryan Reynolds.

10) The Post

Monthly Box Office: $18.1 M

Spielberg’s latest will drop off the box office charts just in time for his next film to climb to the top. The Post, his hastily assembled production that feels like a transplanted Frank Capra film, tried hitting a social nerve. Yet somehow movies like Get Out seemed to steal its thunder. Of all the Oscar-fare released during the holiday season, the Post was most able to achieve box office success based on the talent in front of and behind the camera, earning just under $80 million by the end of February. If that guy Steven married to Kate Capshaw is really lucky, Ready Player One will top that opening weekend.

Just outside the top ten for the month is the big winner on Oscar night, The Shape of Water with about $16 million. After that comes Hostiles, Annihilation, and some other January holdovers followed by awards films. Three Billboards actually earned almost as much in February as it did in January, with about $12 million added to its total, followed by Darkest Hour, I, Tonya and Phantom Thread. To complete the top ten openers in February, a daunting task for a short month, add the aforementioned Annihilation, Early Man, Every Day, and way down in tenth is Samson with just under $2 million. Suffice it to say, Black Panther dominated big time, with an opening weekend that was almost twice as big as all other February openers combined. The monthly total for February 2018 is almost 50% higher than last years, and could be the biggest February of all time with a billion dollars in sales. March seems to promise only mediocre blockbusters, with no real break-out among them, but lets see if one of them can surprise us.



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