Remember when Warner Bros.’ surprise smash “It” seemed like it might augur the revival of a near-dreadful box-office year? While “It” now stands at $315 million, that second wind didn’t happen — and looking ahead, there’s little hope of another film worthy of that optimism. Of course, in two weeks we have a new movie from the Marvel conveyor belt in “Thor: Ragnarok,” which could open above $100 million. However, even at that level, it may not rise to savior status.
Initial returns for “It” set records, single-handedly reversed several weeks’ worth of low ticket sales, and threatened to make a real dent in the 6 percent decline in grosses. Unfortunately, other films haven’t joined that rebellion. Sony’s “Blade Runner 2049” may not even see a worldwide gross to equal its production and marketing costs.
There’s virtually no chance this year’s box office will see parity to 2016. We’re tracking just under 5 percent, and careful analysis shows troubling facts that financial analysts — and the three major circuits’ falling stock prices — already grasp.
We ended the October 13 weekend with $893 million in domestic box office. In 2016, we’d made that much by Labor Day, which is very bad news. It gets worse when you consider life without “It”: Without that Stephen King adaptation, we’d be down 35 percent from last year.
That steep drop isn’t all about “It;” it also means that other titles fell sharply. Last year by this point, seven September and October films had opening weekends over $20 million. This year, five managed that, including “It.”
Of about 20 wide releases since Labor Day, only three (apart from “It”) appear to be profitable — and those are largely led by foreign interest. “The Foreigner,” an STX Chinese co-production with Jackie Chan, and 20th Century Fox sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” should make money. With its minuscule budget, last weekend’s “Happy Death Day” should make a nice profit for Universal — but it’s a mediocre performance against other Blumhouse Prods. horror titles.
Skip forward to Nov. 3, to the opening weekend of “Thor: Ragnarok.” That’s the same position as the first “Thor” sequel in 2013, as well as Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad” in August of last year. No live-action film opening in the first two weekends of November has ever opened over $100 million.
That’s very possible for “Thor: Ragnarok,” which would be great. However, it’s also the week’s sole new wide release. Rival studios looked at Thor, considered their options, and cried uncle. So while that’s good for the son of Odin, the weekend will be down for theaters.