But there are plenty of signs of trouble abroad. Transformers: The Last Knight indeed opened to a healthy $123 million in China, but that total collapsed by 75 percent in its second week. More and more, studios are flooding Chinese theaters on their films’ opening weekends to guarantee a huge initial take and offset disappointing numbers in the U.S. But Chinese audiences’ enthusiasm for that strategy appears to be waning (as a fascinating Hollywood Reporter look at the Chinese theater experience suggests). Hollywood studios are also partnering with major Chinese studios like Huahua Media and Wanda Film for these roll-outs; as such, their cuts of worldwide box-office numbers are getting smaller.
Meanwhile, in America, two of the biggest profit-makers of the year (Get Out and Split) were non-sequels made for low budgets by exciting directors (Jordan Peele and M. Night Shyamalan respectively). Last weekend, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, an original, R-rated heist thriller that got rave reviews, outperformed expectations, grossing $30 million (close to its total budget) in five days. The “specialty” release The Beguiled, only showing in 674 theaters, has made more money than The Mummy, which is still on 1,760 screens. Yes, there are big-budget follow-ups at the top of the year’s box-office charts, but those were all well-received. Audiences aren’t rejecting sequels; they just aren’t rushing to see re-treads of properties they’ve already lost interest in. And it’s still not clear if Hollywood is ready to take that message seriously.