Despite a strong start, the summer 2017 box office was the lowest-earning in over a decade. The season, which began on the first weekend of May and ended on Labor Day weekend, saw only a few true blockbusters released.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman each grossed around $400 million at the beginning of May and June, respectively. During the rest of May, only Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales grossed more than $100 million. The only other movie that opened for more than $300 million all summer was Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Studios noticeably plagued theaters with sequels and spinoffs in shared universes. In the top 10 highest grossing movies this summer, only Dunkirk and Girl’s Trip weren’t sequels or superhero movies. Neither movies managed to crack $200 million.
Speaking in millions of dollars can downplay how badly some of these movies performed at the box office. Coincidentally, the summer of 2014 and 2016 both had Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers and Planet of the Apes in theaters. Both Guardians Vol. 2 and Homecoming out-earned their 2014 counterparts, but Transformers: The Last Knight and War for the Planet of the Apes both stumbled when compared to the earlier films, despite War‘s critical success.
Perhaps another way to look at this summer’s failures is to look at all the movies that underperformed despite high amounts of press garnered. The Emoji Movie, Annabelle: Creation, The Mummy, Alien: Covenant, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Atomic Blonde, The Dark Tower, Baywatch, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword all failed to reach $100 million. Granted, some of these movies floundered critically, or managed to “win their weekend,” but for the amount their respective studios spent on advertising, it’s a tough pill to swallow that none of the films managed to gross even as much as The Angry Birds Movie did in the summer of 2016.
Perhaps the best indicators for this summer’s box office slump were the Labor Day weekend movies. Theaters limped to the end of the season with nothing to show for it; The biggest names were a re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind — for its 40th anniversary — and Goon: The Last of the Enforcers.
When the two best options for a weekend trip to the movies are a 40-year-old sci-fi classic or a sequel to a cult comedy, it’s clear the studios underperformed.
So, why did nobody go to the movies?
“I’m broke,” said senior economics major Rick Kitchen.
Kitchen said he saw Wonder Woman, but nothing else this summer. “It’s just really easy to watch movies other ways nowadays.”
Joe Prisa, a junior economics major, agreed. “I just think prices are too high on movie tickets,” he said. Prisa saw 47 Meters Down, but “just wasn’t interested” in seeing any superhero movies or other sequels. Prisa added he might be willing to pay high ticket prices for summer movies, “If they were more original.”
Both Prisa and Kitchen said they use the internet as a means to stream movies and shows, and a monthly subscription fee is more appealing than purchasing an expensive ticket. Services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to provide attractive deals, and movie studios have failed to respond with a way to make movie-going more interesting.
“It’s not something that is involving,” said Wastena Endrias, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences. “You don’t really hang out with people when you’re doing it, you’re just looking at a screen.”