Despite the successes of films like Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, and The Big Sick, audiences stayed clear of movie theaters this summer, the worst for Hollywood’s bottom line in 11 years.
Overall ticket sales dropped to an estimated $3.8 billion this year, a dip of more than 14 percent off last summer and the lowest revenue total, unadjusted for inflation, since 2006.
Insult to injury was the Labor Day weekend frame — the first without a wide release (more than 1,000 theaters) in 25 years — which tallied an estimated $99.5 million. The last time a four-day Labor Day weekend failed to top $100 million in ticket sales was back in 1998.
The summer malaise — exacerbated by the last three weeks, when the only major release was Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard — dropped overall yearly revenue to 6 percent behind last year’s totals.
Despite summer ending with a whimper, the early months of the season were loaded with hits: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kicked things off in May and has totaled more than $389 million in domestic ticket sales ($863 million worldwide), more than its predecessor accomplished in 2014. Fellow Marvel release Spider-Man: Homecoming was also a success, earning $325 million in North America ($747 million worldwide), more than the past two Spider-Man films (with Andrew Garfield in the lead role) but less than Sam Raimi’s trilogy of features with Tobey Maguire. But it was Wonder Woman that ruled all, with $409 million in domestic ticket sales ($813 million worldwide). The Gal Gadot film was the summer’s biggest hit and stands as the fifth highest grossing superhero movie of all-time in North America.
There were other winners too: Despicable Me 3 ($258 million), Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk ($180 million), Girls Trip ($112 million), Baby Driver ($105 million), and The Big Sick ($41 million). But amid those success stories were washouts like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Mummy, Baywatch, and King Arthur.
The good news is that September may very well rebound in a hurry with It. The Stephen King adaptation, opening in more than 4,000 theaters on Friday, is expected to shatter the September opening weekend record ($48 million, held by Hotel Transylvania 2).