Summer 2017 will go down in the annals of Hollywood as a disappointing one. While international returns have saved a number of blockbusters, the reality is that this has been worst-performing year for Hollywood in modern times. For the first time since 2006, the domestic summer box office has failed to clear $4 billion.
Against this troubling backdrop, though, there's one exception to the rule and that is the staggering success of Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman.
A Revolutionary Superhero
Until 2017, Hollywood had believed that female-led superhero movies were doomed to failure. Marvel's Ike Perlmutter summed up conventional wisdom in a leaked email back in 2014, when he pointed to examples like Catwoman and Elektra. These movies, the argument went, proved that female-led superhero films would always be a flop. And then along came Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, a hero who left the world cheering with delight — and paying big bucks
The film grossed $103 million in its opening weekend, and its proved to have remarkable legs. To date, it's grossed over $409 million in the domestic box office — a remarkable achievement that makes it the fifth most successful superhero movie of all time. Wonder Woman has actually beaten Iron Man 3, meaning Warner Bros. can now once again claim three of the top five superhero films — And one of them isn't a Batman movie!
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman's global box office stats are just as impressive. The Amazonian Princess has broken $813 million worldwide, easily beating Warner's Man of Steel, and creeping close to Batman v Superman's $873 million. We're sadly coming to the end of the movie's box office run, so it's unlikely to hit any other milestones, but the fact remains; this is an incredible, unprecedented success for Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Has Other Successes This Year
But Wonder Woman isn't the only success for Warner Bros. this year. Christopher Nolan's #Dunkirk stunned critics too, performing far better than expected. A British war movie released in the middle of the summer? On the face of it, placement alone should have undermined Dunkirk. But Nolan is an accomplished director, and positive word-of-mouth ensured the film earned a must-see reputation. The movie grossed $180 million in the domestic box office, and $460 million worldwide.
Let me give you a sense of scale for that one. In terms of the domestic box office, Dunkirk beat Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Transformers: The Last Knight, and even War for the Planet of the Apes. Most of those films were saved by stronger performances in the foreign box office, but it's clear that Dunkirk resonated with American viewers.
Warner Bros. will be delighted. The studio is currently the best performer of summer 2017, largely because of unprecedented successes like Wonder Woman and Dunkirk. It's still down on 2016, but then again, all studios are. The remarkable thing is, though, Warner Bros. is only down by 9%. In contrast, Disney's 2017 box office earnings have dropped by 39%.
The last couple of years have seen critics and pundits take shots at Warner Bros., an oft-troubled studio that's still struggling to launch its superhero cinematic universe off the ground. That pressure's eased a lot over the summer, though, as Warner has proved it still has what it takes to make Hollywood magic again.