Box office underperforms

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 per cent 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 theatre 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."

The summer as a whole was the lowest grossing in over 10 years, and August was the worst in two decades. And not all long-running franchises continue to be the cash cows they once were. Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" had a franchise worst domestically with "Dead Men Tell No Tales" ($172.6 million) — although worldwide was a more positive story. The same was true for another fifth installment, Paramount's "Transformers: The Last Knight" ($130.2 million).

For the second year in a row, the Walt Disney Company is at the top of the ladder with over $2.2 billion in domestic revenue making up over 21.2 per cent of the market share from releases like "The Last Jedi," ''Beauty and the Beast" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" ($389.8 million).

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