Superhero Cinemath: Who Won the Battle of the Box Office in 2017? [Updated]
Fans can argue over just which superhero movie of 2017 is the best of the bunch, but if there’s one great leveler, it’s math. Yeah, I know, you’re still going to argue about sequels vs origin stories, solo outings vs team-ups, and Marvel vs DC regardless of the cold, hard facts presented before you, but at least you’ll have some surefire figures to back up your ironclad opinions and impressively bad takes.
We’re keeping things objective here in Superhero Cinemath by taking a look at the box office numbers for 2017’s superhero movie slate. What movies are we talking about? Well, Marvel had a hand in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok, while DC Comics was in fine form with Wonder Woman, Justice League, and, don’t forget, The LEGO Batman Movie! Yes, Marvel has the edge in the number of movies released in theaters this year, but that’s a pretty weak category, don’t you think? Instead, Cinemath will be looking at box office performance across time and space, and the metric of audience retention. You might be surprised to find out which movies take certain categories, and which one walks away the big winner. (All numbers courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)
* Keep in mind that these are the most up-to-date figures possible at the time of posting. Since Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League are recent openers, some of the rankings may change over the next few weeks. They’ll be updated accordingly.
* All dollar figures are in millions.
Best Opening Day (Domestic)
One great indicator of how big a movie is going to be–and how effective its marketing campaign really was–is the opening day box office. The following figures are all domestic because, let’s face it, in this day and age of international rollouts that span weeks and months, a good, old-fashioned U.S. release date is the fairest possible comparison.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 easily takes the top spot in this category. In a bit of a running trend that you’ll see in the categories that follow, #1 is a clear winner in each and every case … except for the film that won the overall year at the box office. (How’s that for a teaser?) This opening day is the 25th best ever and the second best for 2017, behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $56.1
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – $50.8
- Thor: Ragnarok – $46.5
- Justice League - $38.5
- Wonder Woman – $38.2
- Logan – $33
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $14.5
Best Opening Weekend: Domestic
Surprise! It’s James Gunn‘s space-based super-sequel again! Like I mentioned earlier, there’s really no competition between first place and the rest here. The strong opening weekend performance Stateside came in early May, though it’s the 6th best May opening all-time behind five other Marvel properties.
Of note, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League earned the 6th and 10th best November opening domestic weekends respectively, and respectfully.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $146.5
- Thor: Ragnarok – $122.7
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – $117
- Wonder Woman – $103.3
- Justice League - $93.8
- Logan – $88.4
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $53
Best Opening Weekend: International
Here’s where things get interesting. The international movie market has been growing and growing over the last 20 years or so. Lately, a strong international play from either all overseas markets or just a handful of key regions can save a movie that had its box office busted on domestic shores. (I’m looking at you, Warcraft.) The power of the Justice League characters’ prestige on the international stage clearly carried the Warner Bros. film to a huge weekend opening, even as the homefront box office failed to meet expectations.
Taking another look at the domestic vs international box offices confirms it: outside of the U.S., the take is nearly doubled. However, this is still the 21st best foreign opening performance ever.
- Justice League - $185
- Logan – $159
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – $139.5
- Wonder Woman – $125
- Thor: Ragnarok – $109.1
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $106
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $37.2
Best Opening Weekend: Worldwide
So even though two-thirds of the box office of this category’s winner came from foreign markets, relatively strong performances in both domestic and international box offices add up to a big win. The fact that all of these films (with the lone exception being the animated, family friendly feature) averaged out to over $114 million from the domestic and international markets in their opening weekends is still quite impressive.
- Justice League - $278.8
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – $256.5
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $252.5
- Logan – $247.4
- Thor: Ragnarok – $231.8
- Wonder Woman – $228.3
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $90.2
Best Overall Box Office (to Date): Domestic
Bear with me in this category; I know it’s still in flux. Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League have only entered the fray rather recently, so their totals will continue to climb. Will they be enough to surpass the other films that are ahead of them? Time will tell, and we’ll update them as they change.
But what’s important to notice here is that Wonder Woman reigns atop the domestic superhero box office for 2017! (Only Beauty and the Beast is ahead of the film for the year’s domestic box office, for now.) That’s awesome! And it’s quite cool that we’ve already had three different winners in five categories. Cooler still? Wonder Woman‘s worldwide take is split almost evenly between domestic and international markets, making it a surefire crowd-pleaser the world over. Expect the sequel to break through this ceiling. The film also takes the #1 spots for superhero origin stories, DCEU movies, and World War I movies (easily) for domestic totals.
- Wonder Woman – $412.6
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $389.8
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – $334.2
- Thor: Ragnarok – $309.4
- Logan – $226.3
- Justice League - $223.2
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $175.8
Best Overall Box Office (to Date): International
It’s Spidey’s turn! Remember Spider-Man: Homecoming, that Sony/Marvel movie that came out to much fanfare and then all but disappeared from the radar? Well it’s quietly been building a massive box office all year long. Just the international tally is a crazy $546 million, nearly $20 million more than the next closest competitor. However, it’s still kinda short on superlatives…
[Update: Justice League moved up nicely, as of the Christmas holiday weekend, putting it ahead Wonder Woman internationally, but still about $50 million behind Guardians 2.]
- Spider-Man: Homecoming - $546
- Thor: Ragnarok – $535.4
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $473.8
- Justice League - $424
- Wonder Woman – $409.3
- Logan – $390.5
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $136.2
Best Overall Box Office (to Date): Worldwide
Except for the fact that it’s also the year’s biggest overall box office. What?! Yeah, somehow Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, acting as a sort of reboot following Tom Holland‘s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, outgrossed every other superhero movie of the year, by a fairly wide margin. Thor: Ragnarok is still just under $60 million behind, while Justice League has about $110 million worth of a gap to close. I expect Thor to pass Wonder Woman soon, but Spidey may be out of reach.
[Update: As of the Christmas holiday weekend, Thor: Ragnarok has indeed past Wonder Woman to claim the #3 spot! Justice League also moved up past Logan, but is still well behind the Top 4 totals.]
Despite the massive box office performance, Spider-Man: Homecoming is still just barely in the Top 50 films on a worldwide box office basis. Impressive, but far from the only 2017 movie to crack this coveted category: Despicable Me 3 (#24), The Fate of the Furious (#11), and Beauty and the Beast (#10) managed to do so without superpowers and are all billion-dollar-plus earners.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming - $880.2
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - $863.6
- Thor: Ragnarok – $844.9
- Wonder Woman – $821.8
- Justice League - $647.2
- Logan – $616.8
- The LEGO Batman Movie – $312
Best Audience Retention
Tired of all that money talk? Capitalism got you down? Do you want a winner that has less to do with the almighty dollar and more to do with audience appreciation? Then you’re going to love this category, which rewards the superhero film that kept the most new and returning audience members in its second week of release. Our fifth winner in eight categories: The LEGO Batman Movie!
This one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering that the fan-friendly and family-friendly film is worth watching multiple times. That’s not to say the other films on this list aren’t–in fact, most of the audience retention was pretty solid–but there’s just something about the zany, wild, fast-paced action of The LEGO Batman Movie that makes it highly rewatchable. It doesn’t boast any other superlatives, but it’s a heart-warming fact that it won a category at this year’s superhero box office. Congrats, LEGO Batman!
- The LEGO Batman Movie – 61.6%
- Wonder Woman – 56.7%
- Thor: Ragnarok – 46.5%
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 44.5%
- Justice League - 43.8%
- Logan – 43.1%
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – 37.8%
Marvel vs DC
Here’s a fun one for fans who might like to debate over whether Marvel or DC won the Box Office Battle of 2017. At least according to the eight categories mentioned above … it’s a tie! A Warner Bros./DC property took home four categories, while a Sony/Marvel or Disney/Marvel movie took home the other four. So there’s plenty to go around for everybody! That’s kinda nice, isn’t it?
Oh, but wait, that’s not the only tie!
And the Winner Is ...
So here’s the thing, Marvel and DC may have split the category wins, but two films were nearly identical in the number of individual wins: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. That’s surprising!
What’s more surprising is just how close they were. If you think of it like scoring in the Olympics, both films earned themselves two Gold medals and two Silver medals. And while Guardians finished 4th and 6th in two other categories, Spidey finished dead last in one: Audience Retention, believe it or not, losing nearly two-thirds of its audience from opening week to the week after. But the difference here is in the Bronze medals. Guardians also earned two, but Spidey … earned three.
So it’s with the slimmest of margins–and with the year’s best box office total in mind–that Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming takes home the crown for the Superhero Movie Box Office Battle of 2017! Congrats!