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Revenue for the month won’t crack $560 million, the worst showing in a decade after a string of movies underperformed domestically. Through Sunday, October ticket sales stood at $539.1 million, down a steep 13.4 percent from the same time period last year, according to comScore. The last time October revenue didn’t cross $600 million, or $700 million, was in 2007.
The final weekend of the month was particularly brutal. Moviegoers already ambivalent about showing up to for the new titles on the marquee were easily distracted by Halloween parties and the World Series (to boot, Stranger Things 2 premiered on Netflix).
The malaise struck hard.
Case in point: George Clooney’s upscale dramedy Suburbicon opened to a paltry $2.8 million from 2,046, the worst showing of any film Clooney has directed and a career low for star Matt Damon outside of All the Pretty Horses in 2000. The $25 million film, also starring Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, was skewered by critics before getting slapped with a D- CinemaScore by audiences.
It is also among the worst wide openings in Paramount’s history. The studio has endured one box-office disappointment after another this year; last month, Darren Aronofksy’s mother! opened to $7.5 million domestically for a total to date of $17.8 million. Globally, the horror film, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has earned $43 million.
Thank You for Your Service, from Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks and partner Universal, didn’t fare much better than Suburbicon after failing to drum up interest in America’s heartland. The $25 million film, starring Miles Teller as an Iraqi war veteran suffering from PTSD, opened to $3.7 million from 2,054 locations. Universal and DreamWorks hosted dozens of screenings for members of the military and veterans, hoping to emulate the success of American Sniper.
But the biggest reason for the worrisome slump was the lack of a successful big event film along the lines of past October hits Gravity ($274.1 million), The Martian ($228.4 million) or Gone Girl ($167.8 million).
This year, not one October release crossed $100 million domestically. Blade Runner 2049, which hoped to follow the same trajectory as Gravity and The Martian, has only earned $81.4 million since its release on Oct. 6. Environmental disaster pic Geostorm also faltered, earning just $23.6 million in its first 10 days. Both films are facing major losses.
To be fair, no 2016 October title cleared $100 million, either. However, five titles did earn north of $50 million; this time out, only one has, Blade Runner.
“October has been a bloodbath at the box office, and unfortunately reminiscent of what was a very slow month of August,” says comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “With year-to-date revenue down 5 percent and just two months left in the year, making up the difference will be a daunting task with enormous pressure on every movie to perform to get us anywhere near last year’s record $11.4 billion North American record.”
Nor is the international box office, which is pacing only slightly ahead of last year, going to be enough to rescue Hollywood.
Adds Wall Street analyst Eric Handler: “everything is going to be dependent on November and December. October typically accounts for 25 percent of fourth-quarter domestic revenue, so it’s not a big month. We’ve still got Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, Coco and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to go. Remember the rally we saw two years ago.”
“We’ve still got two months to go,” says Handler.
Hollywood is banking on Handler being right. If tracking is correct, Marvel Studios and Disney’s Ragnorak will debut well north of $100 million next weekend — some think it could even approach $125 million — after opening to an impressive $107.6 million overseas from about 50 percent of the international marketplace.
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