Reflecting on Q3: Late Summer Dregs and Early Award Hopefuls

Q1 smashed box office records while, save for a handful of real gems, Q2 appeared to drop the baton a little. Hollywood's Q3 (July, August, September) seems to continue the latter's trend, delivering a number of underperformers - or downright bombs - alongside just an elite selection of successes and wins. The late summer stretch was a particularly dreadful patch, inspiring little in the way of confidence and cratering numbers: when overall figures wound-up, this summer was the lowest-grossing in a decade and left Hollywood with a little egg on its face. Let's break it down a little more, shall we?

Reflecting on Q3: Late summer Dregs and Early Awards Hopefuls...

The second half of the summer belonged to two films really. Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk ($75.5 million) not only earned critical acclaim (many, myself included, labelled it the man's greatest accomplishment of any already glowing career) and solid worldwide numbers, but it scaled the UK box office to become the 18th highest-grossing film of all time. Award season in firmly in its sights, meaning that number looks likely to rise; it became a phenomenal example of a trusted director delivering the goods with a new, original idea that audiences felt the need to see in cinemas. Spider-Man: Homecoming ($39.9 million) started a little slower, but eventually became one of the most critically and commercially celebrated Spider-Man films of all time. It has impressed audiences and earned Disney/Sony a tidy profit for their colliding universes.

Looking at the second half of Q3, It became the horror event of the year, all but wiping the entire competition. With almost $40 million after just a month of play (and more in the tank), the Stephen King adaptation is quickly working its way up the 2017 list, likely sitting in the top five of the year by the time this article is published. Such a stellar result only stands the 2019 sequel in good stead. Kingsman: The Golden Circle has performed rather admirably in the shadows of It, recording over $20 million after just two weekends of play. Bucking the sequel downturn trend, this will almost certainly leapfrog over the original and sprint up the 2017 list.

Dunkirk wasn't the only original fare this summer, thankfully. While sparingly, it showed that maybe, just maybe, Hollywood still had a creative bone somewhere, providing us the immensely enjoyable Baby Driver. With a very, very tidy $16.8 million, Baby Driver's success demonstrated audiences desire for new, refreshing content which will hopefully pave the way for more next year - and this was during the most intense moments of the quarter. Girls Trip, after opening in a limited capacity, impressed British audiences as much as it impressed those Stateside, eventually expanding and winding up with a sensational $11.6 million, flying the flag for diversity. Comedy doesn't usually travel too well (as Rough Night and its $1 million total will tell you), so this performance is particularly stellar.

Overall, the highest worldwide grosser of the summer was Despicable Me 3, and sits at number three in the UK for the year with an astonishing $62.9 million. To me, it did the business rather quietly, passing the $1 billion barrier worldwide with little fanfare. Still, it was clearly the animation of choice while schools were out. Disney Pixar's Cars 3 underwhelmed despite more positive reviews compared to the franchise's predecessors - it has delivered a pitiful $15.1 million, becoming the heralded studio's worst performing film to date. Ouch. Captain Underpants had a slow and steady performance but its $10.2 million total is little to write home about. And the less said about The Emoji Movie, the better for my blood pressure - it did rather alright with $18.8 million in the UK but most of that was people seeing whether it was really that bad. Fun fact though - it's only just fallen out the UK's box office top five, so it's legs have been solid. Way to go, guys. The Nut Job 2 got lost, digging up $2.7 million in total - or, less than The Emoji Movie's already disappointing opening weekend. So, yeah.

On the blockbuster front, the certified flops came in the form of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets and The Dark Tower. The former, a franchise kick-starter rumoured to have planned another five (!!!) instalments, caved with an embarrassing $6.3 million, despite an early summer release date. It's safe to say that franchise has been rejected and I can say, hand on heart, that more people saw my review (most most-viewed to date, FYI!) than actually saw this film (so thanks!). Valerian scrapped together $5.1 million at the tail-end of the season, another abysmal number that suggests the series was dead on arrival. And The Dark Tower crumbled with $3.5 million, with franchise-hopes for Sony buried under the rubble.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Whatever They Decided To Call It In The UK did not launch to the series' landmark figures but managed $25.1 million to tide Disney over. War For The Planet of the Apes brought in a tidy $26.5 million but this was, again, a comedown from the previous franchise entry. The Flatliners sequel was dead on arrival (you knew I was going to) with $652k over opening weekend with a quick burn-out rate expected.

The underwhelming The Hitman's Bodyguard safety delivered $9.7 million back to Lionsgate HQ: it is nothing to be too thrilled about but decent enough for a studio crafting a purposely varied state. American Assassin, from the same studio, performed less securely with just $2.1 million. It may have a little more in the tank, admittedly. Atomic Blonde underwhelmed somewhat, with a $4.8 million total coming below expectations and aspirations, while American Made did solid business by being the only notable film in the marketplace during the awkward August-September transition, with $7.4 to date. The rather delayed Everything, Everything wasn't really worth the effort, gathering an unspectacular $2.1 million for its troubles.

Horror has had a mixed time of it this quarter. It's now clear that people were saving their pennies for It, but Annabelle: Creation did manage over $10 million by being the only film of its sort in the marketplace over August. My beloved mother! deserved more love and appreciation, with $2.7 million over 3 weeks as business begins to dry up; maybe not all publicity is good publicity after all. It may have performed better by removing itself from It's radar, as I covered over on Film Inquiry. While we're on the topic of more experimental material, A Ghost Story's $173k performed decently in arthouses but unfortunately never made it out of that circle. Raw and It Comes At Night hurt each other due to their proximity (just one week), with $182k for the French-language horror and $783 for the Joel Edgerton-starred.

Q3 also saw the unofficial beginning of the Oscar season, with a number of potential contenders staking their claim early in the game in a bid to stand out from the crowded Q4. Katheryn Bigelow's Detroit disappointed in both a critical and commercial fashion, with $2.8 million and dashed Oscar chances. Wind River, from the people that brought us the four-time nomination Hell or High Water, deserved better with $1.6 million to date, just slightly above the female-revolving remake of The Beguiled, which earned $1.5 million for its troubles. Logan Lucky ($4.2 million) was not the powerhouse it deserved to be and sits in the bottom half of the top 100 of the year. While it may not have turned out to be the award-season hopeful it wanted to be, Victoria & Abdul's $9.4 million across just a handful of weeks is a crowning achievement, while God's Own Country has had a small,  solid and sustained time of it, with $945k. I do hope it can make the conversation over the next few months. The indie winner of the summer was The Big Sick, earning $2.3 million and award-season momentum. Goodbye Christopher Robin did just over $1 million in its first weekend, and will hope to perform well mid-week (I was the youngest in my screening on Wednesday by several decades).

Unless I've completely missed anything, that's a wrap on the major releases of Q3. We've had a couple of major successes, a few complete disasters and everything else has been solid to fine. It lead to the weakest summer figures in a decade Stateside but it tracked far better in the UK, mainly due to the blow-out success of Dunkirk and a selection of others (Homecoming, Despicable Me 3). Early Autumn has helped both with both It and Kingsman impressing both sides of the pond.

Looking towards Q4, award season gets fully underway alongside the big blockbusters fighting for glory. Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, Coco, Murder On The Orient Express and Star Wars: The Last Jedi are going for big family buck; The Snowman, The Shape of Water, The Disaster Artist and The Killing of a Sacred Deer are searching for an older crowd; and the various award contenders (Wonderstruck, Call Me By Your Name and Battle of the Sexes are just a handful coming this year). We will see who finds glory and who crashes and burn shortly - let me know which films you are most excited for, your predictions for success and what you thoughts were on Q3 as a whole?