Box Office: Summer Revenue Booms While Attendance Still Lags

Incredibles 2 Publicity 3 - H 2018
Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

A wide array of titles — from 'Avengers: Infinity War' to 'Crazy Rich Asians' — fuelled a 14 percent uptick in revenue over a terrible summer 2017. Attendance is also up, but this will still be the second-worst summer showing in more than 25 years.

Don't blame the film business for wanting to celebrate at this year's proverbial Labor Day picnic.

The 2018 summer box office made a comeback in North America following a dismal season in 2017, even amid consolidation and the ongoing threat to the theatrical business from the small screen and digital platforms.

Revenue for the season is expected to come in at roughly $4.39 billion in North America by the time Labor Day wraps on Sept. 3, a 14 percent jump over last year, which was the worst showing in more than a decade, according to comScore. That's the biggest summer-over-summer uptick in more than a decade. In 2007, revenue for the May-August stretch posted an 11 percent gain over the prior year.

If projections are correct, summer 2018 will be the fifth-best on record.

Attendance is another matter, thanks in part to the way the number of people going to the movies is calculated: dividing overall revenue by the average ticket price. (In Europe and other parts of the world, theaters count the actual number of people through the door.)

Going by the average ticket price of $9.38 in the second quarter (April-June), an estimated 468 million will have gone to the movies this summer. That number increases to 473 million if going by the average ticket price for the year to date ($9.27).

While that's an improvement over summer 2017 — when roughly 430 million consumers went to the cinema, the lowest level in more than 25 years — it will nevertheless be the second-worst showing since 1992.

In terms of the revenue gain, summer 2018 has seen a wide array of films prosper in North America, including a healthy number of sequels and franchise installments, plus smaller titles and documentaries, such as the Fred Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?, which has earned upwards of $22 million in the U.S.

August has also been robust compared to last year, thanks in large part to The Meg and Crazy Rich Asians, both from Warner Bros.

Disney takes up the top two spots on the domestic summer chart with Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War ($679 million) and Pixar's Incredibles 2 ($597.1 million). They are followed by Universal's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($413 million), Fox's Deadpool 2 ($318.4 million), Disney/Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story ($213.6 million) and Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp ($211.5 million).

Other notable titles in terms of the top 10 summer films domestically include Paramount's Mission: Impossible — Fallout ($194 million), Sony's Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation ($159 million), Warners' Ocean's 8 ($139 million) and Universal's Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ($115 million).

"The 2018 summer rebound has been nothing short of astounding, given the gloom-and-doom pronouncements about the movie theater experience that dogged the industry exactly a year ago, when we neared the end of one of the worst-performing summer movie seasons ever," says comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarbedian. "A great slate of films that offered literally something for everyone resonated strongly with audiences. What a difference a year makes!"

Estimated summer numbers aren't available for the international box office.