July Box Office Down Despite ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’

Domestic box office drops eight percent from last year

Movie theaters were full of critically-praised films in July.

From franchise titles like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” to original releases like “Baby Driver,” “The Big Sick,” and “Dunkirk,” moviegoers had plenty of quality films to choose from. Unfortunately, that quality did not translate into a rebound for the domestic box office, as estimates from comScore show an eight percent year-to-year drop from 2016.

Estimates from comScore put this month’s totals at around $1.25 billion, compared to $1.37 billion for July 2016. Box office totals for the summer to the end of July were also down eight percent, with 2017 currently standing at $3.06 billion compared to $3.33 billion for 2016 from May to July. For a more even comparison, four weekends were counted in comScore’s tally, including Friday, June 30.

While July did see “Spider-Man: Homecoming” bring in $278 million after its release in the first weekend of the month, last year’s top moneymaker, Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets,” did even better with $296 million. Also boosting the July 2016 totals was “Finding Dory,” which made $139 million in July after being released in mid-June. While July 2017 had a strong family draw with “Despicable Me 3,” which made $230 million that month, the one-two punch of “Pets” and “Dory” couldn’t be matched by the likes of “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Dunkirk,” which had openings in the $50 million range and strong word of mouth but didn’t have the “all ages allure” of those animated comedies.

“Apes” in particular has not performed as well as analysts had hoped, currently grossing $118 million domestic and $224 million worldwide against a $150 million budget. By comparison, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” had domestic totals of $133.5 million and $172.4 million after three weekends in theaters. “War” received the best Rotten Tomatoes score in “Planet of the Apes” history with 94 percent and an A- on CinemaScore to boot. But while “Rise” was released in August 2011 against “The Help” and “Dawn” was released in July 2014 against a three-week-old “Transformers” sequel, “War” faced a recently released “Spider-Man” and the enduring “Wonder Woman.” On top of facing those superhero films and their more crowd-pleasing approach, the latest “Apes” sported intense war sequences and dark existential themes, which might have deterred audiences looking for a more fun time at the movies.

On top of the downtick for July, the outlook for August doesn’t look good either. While August 2016 had “Suicide Squad” to provide at least one strong opening weekend, August 2017 will start with “The Dark Tower,” which is currently projecting for an opening in the low $20 million range, and “Detroit,” which has received critical acclaim with a 95 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating but is definitely more for the art house crowd than a wide audience with its unflinching depiction of racially-charged violence. In fact, while there’s a chance for some mid-budget surprises this month with films like “Logan Lucky” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” the box office is unlikely to see a huge opening weekend until the second week of September, when New Line’s remake of the Stephen King horror “It” hits screens.

Fortunately, the strong results from February and March have helped annual box office totals keep up with last year. Thanks to films like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Fate of the Furious,” and “Get Out,” the first seven months of 2017 have a combined gross of $6.81 billion, compared to $6.9 billion last year. Even as summer numbers continue to slide, films like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” should give 2017 a chance to beat last year’s grosses as the 52-week release slate continues to make its presence felt.