The end of each year is often a time for reflection, as we look back on the year that was before we get ready to turn the page on a brand new year. When it comes to the movies, there's more than enough to reflect on, with countless amounts of "hot takes" starting to surface, including lists of the top 10 movies, but this year, we thought we'd try a different approach as well. Given how unique a year 2017 was at the box office, we decided to delve back through the year that was, and pick out the top 10 most interesting trends that developed among audiences this year, some of which could have quite the big impact on the movie industry for many years to come.
While the top 10 for this year isn't officially set in stone yet, since it's only a matter of time before Star Wars: The Last Jedi vaults to the top of the charts, overtaking the top-grossing movie for roughly three-quarters of this year, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which has a taken in $504 milion domestic and became the first movie of 2017 to cross $1 billion worldwide, with global total of $1.26 billion. Star Wars: The Last Jedi should have no trouble surpassing both of those tallies on both the foreign and domestic front, although it will still come far shy of breaking all of the record set by 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars movie to hit theaters in 10 years, including the highest opening weekend ($247.9 million) and all time domestic gross ($936.6 million).
While everyone is talking about Star Wars and its box office dominance right now, there were some interesting trends that developed this year, many of which will have studio heads and creative executives trying to come up with new ways to chase those box office dollars, especially the summer season, with the summer 2017 box office sinking to an 11-year low, including the worst single weekend in 15 years. There will need to be some big changes in store to adapt to moviegoers tastes, which are shifting more rapidly than ever. For example, Blade Runner 2049, a movie that an a passionate group of fans had been looking forward to for more than 30 years, took in just $91.4 million at the domestic box office, and was out-grossed by movies like Girls Trip, Baby Driver, and even Wonder, which has quietly surpassed $100 million two weeks ago.
With all of that being said, we're going all the way back to examine the entire year from top to bottom, and compare it with trends that have been set forth several years prior. We'll examine trends in everything from superhero movies to animated movies, sequels, remakes, reboots and everything in between, including, *gasp* original movies! We kick off this top 10 list with a trend that was bucked in a rather huge way this year, with one notable exception, so sit back and relax and enjoy this trip through the year that was 2017 at the box office.
Animated movies are no longer a sure thing at the box office.
Ever since the advent of Pixar more than 20 years ago, and the stories they developed that were just as beloved by adult as their kids, there has been an explosion in quality animated movies, and, more often then not, they can be massive hits at the box office. Just last year, four animated movies cracked the domestic top 10, Finding Dory (#2, $486.2 million), The Secret Life of Pets (#4, $368.3 million), Zootopia (#7, $341.2 million) and Sing (#10, $270.3 million). If you count Disney's live-action/motion-capture hybrid The Jungle Book (#5, $364 million), that's half of the top 10, but, for whatever reason, it seems fans/families largely stayed away from animation this year, with just one animated movie cracking the top 10, Despicable Me 3 (#7, $264.5 million). There were four more animated movies that did fare well and cracked the top 20, The LEGO Batman Movie (#13, $175.7 million), The Boss Baby (#15, $175 million), Cars 3 (#18, $152.9 million) and Coco (#19, $150.7 million), but it's rather incredible to see such a huge swing with animated movies in the top 10. Part of that likely has something to do with our next entry on the list...
R-Rated movies continued their box office resurgence.
As of right now, there are two R-rated movies in the domestic top 10, the IT remake (#5, $327.4 million) and Logan (#8, $226.2 million). If Logan can hang on and stay in the top 10 when all is said and done (which it should be able to do), 2017 will mark the first year since 2003 that there have been two R-rated movies in the top 10 at the box office. That particular year, there was actually three, with The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and aside from The Hangover trilogy, most of the R-rated hits in the 14 years since have been one-off anomalies, like The Passion of the Christ, American Sniper and Ted. The massive success of both IT and Logan, along with other hits like Get Out ($174.4 million), Split ($138.1 million), Girls Trip ($115.1 million), Fifty Shades Darker ($114.4 million), Baby Driver ($107.8 million), Annabelle: Creation ($102 million) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle ($100.1 million) all surpassed $100 million at the domestic box office. Last year, only three R-rated movies crossed $100 million, Deadpool ($363 million), Bad Moms ($113.2 million) and The Conjuring 2 ($103.2 million) crossed the $100 million mark, so there shouldn't be any doubt that R-rated movies are back in a huge way at the box office.
Low budget hit movies can bring huge box office returns.
While January and February aren't often home to buzzworthy box office hits, two of the most talked-about movies this year debuted in this months and raked in big bucks on tiny budgets. Director M. Night Shyamalan's hit Split took in $138.1 million domestic and $278.3 million worldwide from just a $9 million production budget. Jordan Peele's directorial debut Get Out earned $174.4 million domestic and $254.3 million worldwide, from just a $4.5 million budget. Get Out has been deemed the most profitable film of 2017, with Split not too far behind, which makes sense since both films produced by low-budget specialist Jason Blum. While the top 10 is still dominated by big budget fare, New Line's IT has taken in $327.4 million domestic and $697.5 million from just a $35 million budget. Aside from Despicable Me 3, which had an $80 million budget, the rest of the top to movies were budgeted far over $100 million apiece. Movies like Girls Trip ($139 million worldwide, $19 million budget), Baby Driver ($226.9 million worldwide, $34 million budget) and Annabelle: Creation ($306 million worldwide, $15 million budget) managed to fare quite well without breaking the bank, so it's certainly possible that we could see more low-budget fare hit theaters, especially considering what happened to many of the big-budget summer sequels and reboots.
Reboots and/or sequels are dying off, rather quickly.
Of the current top 10 movies, four were released in the summer months, the same amount as last year, and despite this year's box office woes towards the end of the summer, there were still some big summer hits. Wonder Woman (#2, $412.5 million), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (#3, $389.8 million), Spider-Man: Homecoming (#4, $334.2 million) and Despicable Me 3 (#7, $264.5 million) were the biggest hits of the summer, which certainly didn't as a surprise to any box office analysts, since they're all either sequels or based on popular brands. The big surprise, however, was that so many other projects that have thrived at the box office in the past, have fallen off so sharply. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales ($172.5 million), Cars 3, ($152.9 million), War For the Planet of the Apes ($146.8 million), Transformers: The Last Knight ($130.1 million) and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ($26.8 million) all posted franchise-low domestic grosses this year, while high-powered movies based on hit franchises like Power Rangers ($85.3 million), The Mummy ($80.1 million), Alien: Covenant ($74.2 million) and Baywatch ($58 million}, The Dark Tower ($50.7 million), Rings ($27.9 million), CHiPs ($18.6 million) and Flatliners ($16.7 million) all failed to make a huge dent at the box office as well.
There is simply no stopping superhero movies, even the DCEU.
2017 marks the first year that there were three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released in the same year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, which will all end the year in the top 10. Surprisingly, the superhero landscape this summer was dominated by a DCEU film, Wonder Woman, which became the first critical and commercial success the DCEU has had to offer so far. Even if the DCEU seemingly dropped the ball with Justice League, which suffered the worst opening weekend in the DCEU and will end its run as its lowest-grossing movie, this year certainly proved that there is no such thing as "superhero fatigue." If Logan stays in the top 10 that means half of the top 10 will be superhero movies, hailing from three different studios. That's quite an amazing feat, which proves that there isn't necessary any "brand loyalty" when it comes to superheroes, as long as the story they're telling is worth seeing, and unique.
The indie film scene is stronger than ever before.
Indie films don't get the same type of press most of the major studio films get, for many reasons, one of which is because they're released on a much smaller scale, but there were four indies that managed to put up some incredible numbers and even warrant nationwide releases outside of the arthouse theaters in New York and L.A. Perhaps the biggest indie hit of the year was The Big Sick, which put up $421,577 in its opening weekend from just five theaters, for an astounding $84,315 per-screen average. It expanded to 71 theaters the next weekend, where it took in $1.6 million for a $23,267 per-screen average, and again to 326 theaters, where it put up $3.5 million, cracking the top 10 in 8th place with a $10,971 per-screen average. It expanded to 2,597 theaters nationwide the next weekend, and it stayed in the top 10 for two more weeks, ultimately earning $42.8 million, which is quite the impressive feat for a movie like this. Lady Bird also made headlines earlier this year, when it took in $364,437 from four theaters for a $91,109 per-screen average, the highest ever for a female director (star Greta Gerwig, in her directing debut). Lady Bird also continued to put up strong numbers throughout its platform expansion, and it has currently taken in $25.9 million since its debut in early November. Theree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri debuted with $322,168 from four theaters for a $80,542 per-screen average, which expanded at a similar rate than The Big Sick and Lady Bird, and it has earned $21.3 million since its debut last month. These are just three examples of how indie film is stronger than it's ever been.
The Chinese box office market is more important than ever.
One of the most interesting box office stories of the year is the performance of The Fate of the Furious, which managed to put up $225.7 million domestic, good for ninth this year so far, yet fell far below Furious 7 ($353 million) and Fast & Furious 6 ($238.6 million). However, it is currently the second highest movie worldwide, with $1.235 billion, just barely below the $1.263 billion of Beauty and the Beast). It accomplished this almost entirely thanks to China, where it opened with $184.9 million, the biggest debut ever for a Hollywood movie in China, en route to $392.8 million in the Middle Kingdom alone. Its China tally also helped the movie secure its record for all-time global opening weekend with $541.9 million, exceeding the $529 million record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. It's also interesting to note that, if you look at the global 2017 charts, you'll see a Chinese movie called Wolf Warrior 2, which earned just $2.7 million in the U.S., but earned an all-time Chinese record $854.2 million. Thanks to grosses in a few more select markets, its $870.3 million tally is the fifth highest tally worldwide this year, and the $854.2 million it earned in China is the second largest from one single market in box office history, behind the $936.6 million record-breaking North American tally of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Star Wars is an unstoppable force at the box office.
While it won't be official for probably another week or so, 2017 will become the third year in a row where a Star Wars movie topped the domestic charts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens kicked off this new tradition with a possibly-unbreakable domestic tally of $936.6 million, and while the new Star Wars spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars story didn't come close to that, its $532.1 million tally was more than enough to take the top spot at the box office. This year, another Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast, has held the top grosses on both the domestic ($504 million) and global ($1.26 billion) charts for most of the year, but with Star Wars: The Last Jedi besting its 2017 record debut of $174.7 million with a whopping $220 million, it should only be a matter of time before Star Wars: The Last Jedi is on top once again. Next year could be the biggest test, though, with the controversial Solo: A Star Wars Story, which is still slated for release on May 25, 2018, despite the fact that roughly the entire movie was reshot by new director Ron Howard, which just wrapped in October.
Original movies are finally making a comeback.
One of the most unique stretches of the year was in mid to late August, when, thanks to the abject failure of The Dark Tower, there was no late-summer hit, so audiences seemingly turned to the original action-comedy The Hitman's Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. The movie ended up winning a surprising three weekends in a row, before being ultimately dethroned by the surprise hit IT, and while The Hitman's Bodyguard didn't necessarily become a huge hit ($75.4 million domestic, $176.5 million, $30 million budget), it certainly fared better than a lot of its competitors that had a bigger budget and bigger stars behind it. One can also look to the success of Get Out, a completely original thriller/comedy, or even Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which presented a pivotal moment from World War II in a unique way, or Baby Driver, which elevated car chase scenes in thrilling new ways, all of which prove that originality thrived in 2017. Sure, it might not be reflected in the top 10, which is chocked full of movies based on popular IP's, but if there is one constant about this year, it's this...
Being different equals being successful.
Whether it be the failure of cookie-cutter remakes and/or sequels, or the rise of R-rated fare, or any other unique box office trend we saw in 2017, it was quite clear that audiences were looking for something different this year, even if it was part of an existing property. Beauty and the Beast gave fans a live-action rendition of that iconic "tale as old as time," throwing in a few new songs in the mix along with the first gay character in Disney history. Wonder Woman helped not only break ground for female-lead action movies, but also for female directors with Patty Jenkins' incredible, while even Marvel's three movies (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok) took fans to places they weren't expecting to go. New Line's IT proved you didn't need a big star (or even many adult stars) to break the bank while Logan turned a franchise on its ear with irreverence, poignancy and several well-placed curse words. It's also already been well-documented how different Star Wars: The Last Jedi is from its predecessor, and that will still go on to be 2017's top-grossing movie. The old saying "fortune favors the bold" was proven true again and again at the box office in 2017. One can only hope that the studios will actually start taking notice.