Can ‘Star Wars’ and Superheroes Rescue the Box Office This Year?

Revenue is down five percent year-to-year after the worst October in a decade

This weekend, “Thor: Ragnarok” will arrive in theaters with expectations of a $100 million-plus opening at the box office. It comes not a moment too soon for movie theaters, which could use the boost after the worst October in ten years.

After “It” gave the 2017 box office the biggest September ever, comScore reported that total domestic revenue for October only reached $556.2 million, down 15 percent from last year and the first time October numbers have dipped below $600 million since 2007 ($520 million). It’s a step down that has been widely expected since “Blade Runner 2049” significantly underperformed, followed by a string of poorly received and niche releases. The running total for the year now stands at $8.74 billion, down 5.2 percent year-to-date from 2016.

That means that to pass last year’s $11.3 billion total, the last two months of 2017 will have to bring $2.63 billion, compared to $2.15 billion last year during that time frame. Analysts tell TheWrap that while the end-of-year blockbusters will bring in big bucks, they won’t save 2017 from a downtick.

“2017’s been a good example of the rollercoaster nature of the box office, with lots of ups and downs,” said comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian. “Unfortunately there’s just not enough time and movies to make up the ground lost during the summer.”

On lowball estimates, it’s safe to assume that November’s superhero films, “Thor” and “Justice League,” will gross at least $300 million, while Pixar’s “Coco” has a solid chance of matching the $248 million total made by Disney’s “Moana” last year. Then there’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which is expected to gross more than $200 million in its opening just like its predecessor, “The Force Awakens.”

By the time 2015 came to an end, “The Force Awakens” had accumulated just under $652 million domestically, 69 percent of its $936.6 million total stateside gross. The following year, “Rogue One” made $408 million by year’s end, 76 percent of its $532.1 million total. Based on those figures, analysts estimate that “The Last Jedi” will make at least $500 million by year’s end.

This means that year’s remaining four blockbusters will likely gross at least $1.3 billion between them, halfway toward that $2.63 billion target. But it’s hard to find other films among the smaller offerings this holiday season that can provide the other half.

“I think ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ could bring in some money before the year is out, and there’s the usual batch of Oscar contenders like ‘Downsizing’ and ‘The Disaster Artist,’ but I don’t think we’re going to see another ‘La La Land’ from the Oscar crowd this year,” said Exhibitor Relations’ Jeff Bock.

Other releases this winter include Fox’s adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express,” Fox Searchlight’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”