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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press photos Despite the strength of movies like “Wonder Woman,” after two consecutive record-breaking years domestically, the pace slowed in 2017.

  • The live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” helped Disney become the top grossing studio at the 2017 domestic box office.

Saturday, December 30, 2017 1:00 am

Movies hit big, miss record mark

Failed to reach gross of past 2 years, but still 3rd best ever

LINDSEY BAHR | Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – After two consecutive record-breaking years at the domestic box office, 2017 was the year the momentum slowed – even with the late adrenaline boost of a new “Star Wars” film.

When all is said and done on Jan. 1, the domestic box office is estimated to net out with $11.1 billion in grosses, down around 2.6 percent from 2016's $11.4 billion, according to projections from box office tracker comScore. Looked at another way, it's also likely to be the third highest grossing year in cinema history.

Experts and insiders are somewhat divided on what this might mean for the current state and future of movie going and whether it is reason for alarm or just part of the natural ebb and flow of business. But one thing remains clear to all parties: Quality rules. If the movies are good, audiences will turn out. If they're not, they won't.

“2017 was the tale of two cities. The year started really big. January to April were smash successes and September, November and December are huge successes, but the middle of the year ... markedly underperformed. It's really opened up an intriguing argument between people who think the movie business is challenged and people who think the movie business just needs for Hollywood to make appealing movies,” said Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S.

“We think the record of 2017 demonstrates that when Hollywood makes good movies, America goes to see those movies.”

The year saw tremendous highs with three biggest grossing films “Beauty and the Beast” ($504 million), “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” ($424 million) and “Wonder Woman “($412.5 million), notably all female-led, and the remarkable successes of a handful of non-sequels including “It” ($327.5 million), “Dunkirk” ($188 million), “Get Out” ($175.5 million), “Wonder” ($117.4 million) and “Girls Trip” ($115.1 million).

Some superhero films even found renewed energy, either thanks a new director and vibe (“Thor: Ragnarok,” $309.4 million), as part of a farewell tour (“Logan,” $226.3 million) or a successful reboot with a new star (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” $334.4 million). And all were certified fresh by the film criticism website Rotten Tomatoes.

It was also a year peppered with failed starts and serious lows for everything from R-rated comedies, like “Baywatch,” to formulaic actioners and burgeoning cinematic universes.

Franchises die on the vine every year, but 2017 was particularly brutal for some spectacularly expensive efforts like “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” ''King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and “Blade Runner 2049.” There are the ones that buckled under negative reviews like “The Dark Tower,” and then the much-hyped Dark Universe kick-off “The Mummy” failed to make a notable impact stateside. Aside from “Blade Runner,” all were rated “rotten.”