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Fall Box Office Preview: After Summer Crash, Can A Strong Season Save 2017?

Why the fall season needs to pull in almost $4 billion

Can 2017 box office be saved?

Fall movies will need to do booming business to make up for this summer’s slump: Summer ticket sales failed to cross $4 billion for the season for the first time in 11 years, Memorial Day weekend numbers were the lowest since 1998, and Labor Day weekend receipts are also likely to hit a 20-year low.

The year-to-date total is now 5.7 percent below the pace set last year. So the last four months of 2017 will need to yield about $3.8 billion to match the $11.3 billion total box office for 2016.

“Even just passing the $11 billion mark, even after failing to reach $4 billion in the summer for the first time since 2016, would be an achievement,” said comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

The last four months of 2016 made $3.4 billion, while the last third of 2015, which included “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” made $3.6 billion.

The fall season will kick off in a big way with New Line Cinema’s highly anticipated “It.” Trackers expect it to set a September record with a $60 million-plus opening weekend and strong numbers leading up to Halloween. After that comes the action comedy “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and the family friendly “Lego Ninjago Movie,” which are also expected to have solid openings.

There are no sure bets in October, though “Blade Runner 2049” arrives Oct. 6 with a strong pedigree: The sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film stars Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, and Jared Leto and is directed by “Arrival” filmmaker Denis Villeneuve.

One possible sleeper hit is “Happy Death Day,” a horror film from Universal and Blumhouse that aims to give the two studios another big 2017 win, continuing the success of “Get Out” and “Split.” Potential Oscar contenders like “Suburbicon” and “Downsizing” may also boost ticket sales.

The first heavyweight lands in theaters on Nov. 3: “Thor: Ragnarok.” It has received major social media attention, and its plot is expected to lead into next year’s much-anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War.”

On Nov. 17, Warner Bros unveils “Justice League,” which will give Wonder Woman fans a chance to see their heroine in action again just five months after she became the biggest box office draw of the summer.

On Nov. 22 comes “Coco,” a Pixar original and a likely Oscar contender — though it doesn’t have the built-in selling point of being part of a successful franchise.

Dec. 15 sees the debut of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which continues the story of “The Force Awakens” and has the additional draw of Mark Hamill’s big return as Luke Skywalker. It also includes the final film appearance of the late Carrie Fisher.

Those films provide hope that 2017 could become the third consecutive year to cross $11 billion. But even if it does, there is still one other declining figure that will give exhibitors cause for concern: attendance.

With a ticket price average of $8.89, according to Box Office Mojo, $11 billion in annual revenue translates to roughly 1.23 billion tickets sold.

Hollywood hasn’t sold fewer than 1.25 billion tickets since 1993.