This year’s upsides at the domestic box office won’t be enough to offset the summer and October shortfalls, which will likely leave 2017 short of surpassing last year’s $11.4 billion record. Yes, even with Star Wars: The Last Jedi on marquees.
Even though the Thanksgiving five-day stretch at $270.4 million was the third best ever, up 4% over last year, year to date with $9.7B the business still lags 4% behind the January-November period of 2016. Sources say it will take a miracle to make up that difference by the end of December. Further slowing business is the fact that there aren’t new major studio wide releases (north of 1,500 theaters) for the next two weekends before The Last Jedi opens December 15 along with 20th Century Fox’s animated pic Ferdinand.
According to ComScore, last year’s post-Thanksgiving year-end holiday period of Novemebr 27-December 31 generated $1.27B, led by Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which made 76% of its $532.1M domestic total during that time (or $408.2M). If this year grossed the same exact amount, 2017 would arrive at $10.978B — still 4% short.
During 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered a plethora of box office records with a year-end take of $652.2M (70% of its $936.7M domestic) and drove the November 27-December 31 frame to $1.5B. But even if the biz matched that ticket sales trajectory — which would be mindblowing — the domestic B.O. would still fall behind last year’s high with $11.2B, off 1.5%.
OK, but Last Jedi is supposed to fare better than the opening of Rogue One with an estimated $200M, plus we have what is expected to be strong holiday counterprogramming in Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (five-day opening industry estimate $37M-plus), Universal’s Pitch Perfect 3 ($30M-$35M) and 20th Century Fox’s musical The Greatest Showman ($24M-plus over five days). So taking the difference between 2015 and 2016’s year-end grosses at $1.4 billion, the box office would land at $11.1B, off 2.4%.
Being down a few percentage points this year doesn’t mean moviegoing is broken, as we outlined in our summer-end analysis, nor are exhibition and studio executives screaming with pain. To think that people went in droves to the movies for the first four months of this year when tickets sales were 4% ahead of 2016, and then changed their moviegoing habits immediately, just doesn’t make sense, and September and November proved with big turnarounds by It, Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, and yes, even Justice League (at $174M, it’s 10% ahead of Warner Bros’ Thanksgiving hit last year Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) that it’s always been a product-driven business. A double digit year-on-year drop? Yeah, that would be cause for concern. However, if 2017 ends at $11 billion in the U.S. and Canada, it would be the third year in a row it reached that benchmark. Still remarkable, and the third-best annual take ever in the history of moviegoing.
But domestic is only a piece of the pie when evaluating cinema, and there’s further proof that streaming hasn’t eroded ticket sales just yet: The foreign box office for all pics in north of 1,000 theaters is currently at $15.9 billion, per Deadline sources, up 11% over 2016. Even with the negative impact of currency exchanges and the fact distributors are getting fewer dollars out of Asia and Europe for the same ticket price, Hollywood films are still beating last year’s running foreign tally.