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Director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — with its gaggle of quirky superheroes — is the only summer 2017 tentpole to live up to the hype so far. Over the weekend, the Disney and Marvel superhero sequel grossed $35.1 million in its third outing, not that far behind the disappointing debut of Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.
Launching to a lackluster $36 million domestically, Alien: Covenant is the second big-budget movie in a row to disappoint after King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, helping to contribute to an early summer revenue box-office decline of 10 percent compared with 2016 and 20 percent compared with summer 2015, according to comScore.
There’s still plenty of time to make up ground, but Hollywood is on high alert.
“The thing is, we already know August is pretty lean this year, so studios have to make it up elsewhere in June and July. That will put a lot of pressure on original films like Wonder Woman and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk to succeed,” says box-office analyst Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations.
“I think whether or not we turn things around is extremely dependent on Memorial Day weekend,” he continues. “Last year was a pretty big disappointment with Alice Through the Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse. Hopefully, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch will performer stronger this time around.”
Last weekend, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s King Arthur fell on its sword with a $15.4 million domestic start, one of the worst openings ever for a big-budget studio tentpole. The movie declined 55 percent in its second outing to $6.8 million for a dull 10-day domestic total of $27.2 million and global tally of $93.4 million.
That compares to the pleasing domestic launch of $146.5 million for Guardians Vol. 2 over the May 5-7 weekend, the start of summer at the box office. Through Sunday, the sequel has grossed north of $300 million domestically and $732 million globally.
Disney and Marvel also kicked off summer 2016 in high style with Captain America: Civil War. That movie debuted to $179 million domestically, although a number of other summer franchise installments suffered.
Sequel fatigue did seem to infect Alien: Covenant, which came in 29 percent behind Scott’s 2012 Prometheus. And despite being based on well-trod IP, Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur is a royal failure.
Other culprits behind the early 2017 summer slump include Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, a reboot from Fox that opened opposite Alien: Covenant to just $7.2 million, likely dashing hopes of restarting the franchise which is based on the best-selling kids’ books series.
“Look at it this way, we’ve had plenty of summer movie seasons where we were way up before Memorial Day weekend only to see the bottom fall out later,” says comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian, adding that domestic box-office revenue is up more than 2 percent for the year to date despite the early summer slump.
“I agree it would be naive to think that the box office this summer will be all butterflies and moonbeams, because there will certainly be casualties and underperformers as we have already seen in three short weeks,” Dergarabedian says. “But let’s actually get into June and beyond and see where we are at that point. We could all be singing a different tune if movies like Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3 or Baby Driver connect with audiences in a big way.”
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