September Box Office Boom Grows to Summer Season Levels

This month is showing up the stale summer of 2017 in a big way

Largely off the runaway success of “It” with some help from “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” this past weekend at the box office — and September as a whole — has performed like it’s summer rather than early autumn.

According to data from comScore , this weekend’s overall gross finished at $117.9 million, including a $39 million opening for “Kingsman,” a $30 million third weekend for “It,” and a $21.2 million opening for “Ninjago.” That’s the fifth-highest grossing weekend in September box office history, two weeks after the record-breaking opening for “It” pushed that weekend’s total to an all-time best $163 million.

That gives this month a running total of $592 million, approximately 20 percent ahead of the pace set last year. At this rate, the final total for the month after next weekend could reach as much as $700 million, an amount usually made in August rather than September. In fact, while this would be the first September to cross the $700 million mark, that threshold has been crossed in August four of the last six years.

But that’s the power of the 52-week release calendar on display. While much ink was spilled over this summer’s box office being the first since 2006 to fail to gross more than $4 billion, thanks in part to an extremely weak August, September’s boom has pushed the year-to-date total from 6.3 percent less than last year at the end of August to 4.6 percent less on Sunday.

Had the August box office performed as well as this month has, the final analysis of this summer, while still concerning, wouldn’t have been as drastic. An August with $700 million would have pushed the summer total to approximately $4.1 billion. While that still would have been eight percent less than last year’s summer total, it would have been more than the $4.05 billion made in 2014.

So while August doldrums left analysts contemplating the lost strength of the summer box office, September 2017, much like this past March, is breaking records thanks to the willingness of studios to put out high-quality and highly anticipated films in release slots once considered to be dumping grounds.

“It shows you the see-saw nature of the industry,” comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “We’ve heard studios talk about how they can release a big film any time, but now they’re really putting their money where their mouth is.”

Of course, the rebound of the past three weeks doesn’t completely solve the box office’s problems. Outside of “Blade Runner 2049,” the upcoming slate of films heading into October isn’t showing signs of bringing another boost to theaters on the same level as “It” or even “Kingsman.” And even if, by October’s end, the box office is in a position to get annual totals back to 2016 levels with big end-of-year blockbusters like “Star Wars,” there’s still the looming problem of declining attendance.

But for now, the growing power of pre and post-summer box office release slots shows that the summer struggles are just a part of a cyclical nature of the box office.

“2016 set a new record in annual box office revenue, and right now I think we can get to within two percent of that total this year,” said Warner Bros. President of Distribution Jeff Goldstein. “If we can get to that amount, I’d say that’s still a pretty good year.”

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