Features and Columns · Movies

The Winners and Losers of Summer 2017

A look at the season based on box office success and failure.
By  · Published on September 5th, 2017

A look at the season based on box office success and failure.

Although the last few weekends have brought little of interest for moviegoers, the summer has now officially ended for big-screen output. We can look at the box office chart to see what did well and what didn’t, but the effects of the last four months of cinema is more than just basic financial profit and loss. Below is a list of winners and losers beyond titles and grosses.

Winner: Wonder Woman

As far as box office grosses are concerned, Wonder Woman is the clear champion. At least in the US/Canada, where the DC Extended Universe installment has made $409.5M since its June 2nd debut (despite only having the third-best opening weekend of the summer, after fellow superhero movies Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming). Overseas it’s still in fourth place for the the period, with $813.2M so far. Take that, anyone in Hollywood still afraid of women-led blockbusters.

Losers: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The biggest box office bombs of the season are almost equal in their disappointment. Luc Besson, who has a history of directing movies with wonder women, took a huge hit with his comic book adaptation Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The sci-fi movie reportedly cost more than 177M and took in only $39.8M in the US/Canada. Then there’s Guy Ritchie’s medieval fantasy King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which had a reported budget of $175M and domestic gross only $39.2M. Neither was saved by international audiences, either, having added only $171.1M and $107M from global grosses, respectively.

Winner: DC Extended Universe

See the entry for Wonder Woman, which turned critics and many fans around on the DC Extended Universe with tremendous acclaim and greater domestic box office numbers than past installments and almost greater global box office numbers, as well.

Loser: Dark Universe

Meanwhile, Universal tried to get its new monsters-based cinematic universe off the ground this summer and it stumbled even worse than the DC Extended Universe. At least that franchise has been big at the box office even when its reviews were dismal. The Mummy, which only grossed $80.1M domestically, was saved somewhat by its $327.7M overseas gross, but it’s still not what the studio was hoping for. Maybe its next entry, Bride of Frankenstein, will be its Wonder Woman right away.

Winner: The Conjuring Cinematic Universe

If there’s only one horror hit this summer, it’s Annabelle: Creation. The prequel to Annabelle and fourth entry in the sideways-extending Conjuring franchise is only the 12th biggest hit of the season (with $91M domestic), but at its budget that’s still great (and its $258.1M worldwide is even better)

Loser: The Connected KINGdom

With It sure to be a big success this weekend, we can’t exactly call Stephen King a loser, even if his summer adaptation was a major disappointment. And it’s confusing whether the upcoming movie is supposed to be part of the “Connected KINGdom” branding of The Dark Tower (it seems Sony got rid of its marketing for the latter with references to It). Regardless, if Sony had an interest in actually turning King properties into a cinematic universe, its hopes have been dashed with The Dark Tower‘s failure — only grossing $47.8M domestic.

Winner: Edgar Wright

If any established auteur came out way ahead this summer, especially compared to what he’s done in the past, it’s Edgar Wright. His latest, Baby Driver, wasn’t just his best domestic debut, but the movie’s opening was almost better than any of his previous releases’ total grosses in America. Since its bow, the musical crime film has passed the $100M mark — one of only 11 titles to do so this season. And the foreign box office is almost double its domestic. Not bad for a movie that only cost $34M.

Loser: Steven Soderbergh

On the other side of the auteur success spectrum, Steven Soderbergh struck out with a similarly scaled crime comedy. The filmmaker isn’t exactly used to mostly huge openings or super-size blockbuster grosses, but after Baby Driver‘s achievement in particular, Logan Lucky should have been a big hit. Neither its big stars nor its critical acclaim could draw moviegoers out for a Southern-fried version of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s franchise, and it may finish domestically with less than its reported $29M budget. It’ll find popularity later, but the filmmaker was hoping for a bigger theatrical number in order to make his self-distribution plan, not to mention his coming out of retirement, worthwhile.

Winner: Indie Filmmakers Gone Blockbuster

I’m giving credit to Rolling Stone for the reminder of this section. As much as we wonder why Hollywood keeps handing huge movies to newcomers and other filmmakers who’ve mainly worked small, sometimes it’s worth it. Patty Jenkins went from the $8M-budgeted Monster (14 years ago) to the $149M-budgeted Wonder Woman, and profited. Jon Watts went from the $5M-budgeted Cop Car to the $175M-budgeted Spider-Man: Homecoming. And that was another tremendous success.

Loser: Blockbuster Filmmakers Gone Indie

As Rolling Stone points out, both Colin Trevorrow and Marc Webb recently came off popular, high-grossing franchise movies (Jurassic World and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, respectively) only to flop with returns to smaller indie features. Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry only grossed $4.3M against a $10M budget, and Webb, who also delivered the successful small movie Gifted this year, only grossed $579K domestically ($950K worldwide) for The Only Living Boy in New York against an undisclosed budget that likely was more than that.

Girls Trip

Winner: Girls Trip

One of two raunchy R-rated movies about women gathering for a trip together did surprisingly well. Girls Trip has grossed $112.1M domestically ($126.6M worldwide). Why’d it win so hard? Maybe because it’s actually a good movie.

Loser: Rough Night

One of two raunchy R-rated movies about women gathering for a trip together did not do well at all. Rough Night has only grossed $22.1M domestically ($46.3M worldwide). Why’d it perform so poorly? Maybe because it’s actually a bad movie.

Winner: The Critics

Outside of a few exceptions, including Logan Lucky, the critical darlings of the summer tended to have the best showings at the box office. Of the 10 highest-grossing movies, domestic, six are Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, two others are at least fresh, and only two are rotten. Anyone who still thinks critics don’t matter has been proven wrong. Or at least been shown that we know quality.

Loser: The Fans

Addressing only the comments in Hollywood regarding movies “made for the fans, not the critics,” a lot of supposed fan-catered blockbusters disappointed even the devout this summer. Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t just the lowest-grossing of its franchise, both domestic and worldwide, but it also has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score, the lowest CinemaScore (tied with Revenge of the Fallen), and the lowest IMDb rating. Other franchises that also failed their fanbase include Pirates of the Caribbean (even if some viewers preferred Dead Men Tell No Tales to On Stranger Tides) and Alien (even if Covenant isn’t considered the very worst of the series). At least Marvel and DC fans both got good movies this summer.

Winner: Grown-ups

Adults like quality movies, or at least they should. And this summer gave them some great grown-up entertainment that they properly enjoyed. And it wasn’t necessarily just R-rated stuff. Christopher Nolan’s World War II movie Dunkirk is rated PG-13 but still leans toward the more mature moviegoer. And it’s in the domestic top five for the season. Meanwhile, immature R-rated fare like Baywatch did not do as well. Other hits for adults include Baby DriverThe Big SickGirls TripAnnabelle: Creation, and A Ghost Story, which was definitely no flop in spite of its relatively low box office gross.

Loser: Children

Summer should be a time for great family fare and children’s entertainment, particularly in the form of animated features. But not only did the returning kid-friendly franchises (CarsDespicable Me, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and The Nut Job) see their lowest-grossing entries yet, domestically (and only the worldwide tally for Despicable Me 3 topped others in its series), but there were no breakout newcomers. The Boss Baby was a bit of a carryover hit for the season, after opening in late March, but kids weren’t begging their parents to go see The Emoji MovieCaptain Underpants: The Big Epic Movie, or Leap! even once let alone multiple times.


Winner: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The only movie to come in first place at the box office three weekends in a row (or three weekends at all) this summer: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which has now made $55.2M.

Loser: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard may have been a triple threat at the box office the last few weekends, but it’s the lowest-grossing three-time weekend champ in 17 years, as pointed out at Forbes.

Related Topics:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.