From ‘300’ To ‘Black Panther’ : How The Spring Box Office Changed Over The Past Decade

For the past five weeks, Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” has dominated the box office, with relative ease in doing so.

These days, a major film coming out in the spring movie season and having tremendous success isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s become rather commonplace for this to happen. However, it wasn’t always the case, it only happened after a decade of change in Hollywood.

Let’s go back to 2006. For the most part, up until that point, Hollywood reserved major blockbusters for releases during the summer season, which lasts from May through August, and the fall/winter period between October and December.

One year later, that all changed. On March 9, 2007, “300” hit theaters, and suddenly, things changed. During its opening weekend, the film earned $70.8 million, setting a record for the highest March opening, which has since been broken multiple times. In total, the movie earned $210 million in North America and $456 million worldwide.

Hollywood took notice, and for the next few years during the spring season, which lasts from January through April, blockbusters that would normally be reserved for summer were coming out during different times.

For example, in 2008, “Cloverfield” earned $40 million on its opening weekend in January, setting a record opening for that month. Then, in 2009, “Watchmen” was released and took in $55 million, becoming one of the highest opening weekends in March.

Finally, in 2011, studios began to see the time period as an opportunity for their franchises. In 2011, “Fast Five” was released on April 29 and earned $86 million. Then, in 2012, “The Hunger Games” hit cinemas on March 23, taking in a whopping $152 million. Both of those pictures set records for their months which have been broken by newer films.

The trend continued in 2014 and 2015, with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Furious 7,” respectively. “Winter Soldier,” coming out on April 4, took in $95 million on its opening weekend and now holds the fourth highest opening for April. “Furious 7,” meanwhile, made $147 million during its first weekend and to this day holds the highest opening for April.

The trend only improved in 2016. On Feb. 12, “Deadpool” opened to $132 million, setting the record for the highest opening weekend in February, which would later be broken by “Black Panther.” Weeks later, on March 25, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” was released and earned $166 million.

Finally, that year, “The Jungle Book” came out to theaters and earned $103 million in its first weekend in April. Keep in mind, the original “Iron Man,” in 2008 which was overwhelmingly well received only made $98 million in its opening weekend during the summer. That’s how much things have changed.

That brings us to 2017. On March 3, the Marvel film “Logan” was released to theaters, making $88.4 million. Just 10 years before, “300” had set the record for a March opening with $70 million. Now, with $88 million, “Logan” sits as the fifth highest March opening.

A couple weeks later, Disney released the live action “Beauty and the Beast,” which earned $174 million. It now holds the record for the highest opening for a film in March, $100 million more than the record “300” set in 2007.

A month later, April also had another good showing with “The Fate of the Furious,” which took in $98.7 million in its first weekend. That film now holds the third highest opening in history for April.

This past weekend, “Black Panther” became the fifth highest North American release ever. It’s a sign of just how far the spring movie season has come, and it shows just how far studios have gone to create a more evenly distributed movie season for audiences.

Personally, the change has been great. While there have always been gems here and there through the spring months, there’s no doubt that January through April felt a bit like a drought at times. Thanks to these releases, we viewers now have something to hold us over between the holidays and the summer season.

This is especially a benefit in this time period for movies. With online services such as Netflix, it’s important to give people a reason to go to the theaters, and that’s what this decade long trend has done. Plus, with studios now having long-running series, like Marvel, it allows for more films in the franchise to come out in a year.

Even films with smaller budgets and varying genres have benefited from the spring boost. The comedy remake “21 Jump Street” earned $36 million in its first weekend in March 2012. Then, just last year, the thriller “Get Out” opened in Feb. 24 with a $33 million opening weekend. Both films went on to have great financial success.

Of course, there are technical factors such as more theaters being opened and ticket price differences. However, it’s still important to give credit where credit is do. The film industry tapped into something here, not only finding a way to have more success but also giving us audiences something to enjoy when many of us are still dealing with the snow and cold.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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