This summer’s movie box office is now officially the worst in 10 years

Tom Cruise stars in 'The Mummy.'. Universal Pictures

It seems the classic trip to the movie theatre to wile away those hot summer days has gone the way of the dodo, at least according to the latest numbers emerging out of Hollywood.

As August winds to a close, so does the summer movie season, which normally boasts some of the biggest and best films of the year. Sadly, that isn’t the case in 2017, which is shaping up to be the worst summer at the cinema in the last 10 years.

For the first time in 10 years, domestic (U.S.) ticket sales didn’t reach $4 billion, a feat usually achieved with the release of big action films and summer blockbusters. Additionally, August earnings are down a whopping 35 per cent, year over year, and this Labour Day weekend is expected to flop too, with no major releases planned. According to Box Office Mojo, attendance also plummeted.

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“It’s a black eye for Hollywood, but not a knock-out punch,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “Make no mistake about it, there was little foot traffic in theatres this weekend. But the storyline will change in two weeks, when It opens.”

(Stephen King horror movie adaptation It has been receiving excellent first-look reviews from critics, and should boost box-office numbers when it’s released.)

Aside from the impact of pirating movies, which has decreased the number of people heading out to theatres, this summer’s movie fare has been disappointing. Even returning franchises haven’t delivered the success they’d brought in the past.

The two wide-release movies of August — Annabelle: Creation and (another Stephen King adaptation) The Dark Tower — performed on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Annabelle pulling in a decent $78.2 million over three weeks, and the poorly received Dark Tower only earning $45 million. (All numbers are U.S.-only.)

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2017 has also borne an unusual number of flops; they far outweigh the summer’s triumphs — Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, The Big Sick and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 — and helped deter people from even considering movies for the weekend.

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The Emoji Movie, Tom Cruise vehicle The Mummy, King Arthur, Transformers: The Last Knight, Baywatch, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and yes, even Alien: Covenant all failed to deliver, and each made far less money than expected.

Luckily for Hollywood, international dollars are helping boost the box office. Worldwide cinema-going helped save many of the movies that would have otherwise been total flops, like Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and The Mummy.

“The lesson for Hollywood this summer is that every movie counts when it comes to box office and there are no ‘throwaway’ titles,” said Dergarabedian. “At least three tentpoles missed the mark in North America as well as a handful of R-rated comedies that left audiences frowning, and the missing revenue from those failures could arguably have left a $500 million-plus void in the marketplace — enough to turn a potentially strong $4 billion-plus summer season heavyweight into a 98-pound weakling.”

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Theatres are pulling out all the stops to get bums in seats, including last weekend’s re-release of the 1992 classic crowd-pleaser Terminator 2 in 3D. Cineplex is even offering Tuesday discount prices (half-price) until the end of the month for any movie at any theatre in Canada.


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