Wonder Woman had a big weekend at San Diego Comic-Con: Wonder Woman 2 was officially announced, and the newly unfurled Justice League trailer also heavily featured the character. But the DC hero had an even bigger weekend at the box office, where she claimed a big new sales record — and continues to rewrite common knowledge about what audiences want from their movies.
After smashing opening-weekend box office records in June, beating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in second-weekend sales and becoming the biggest live-action film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman took another title this weekend: It surpassed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to become the highest-grossing movie of the summer at the domestic box office, taking in almost $390 million in ticket sales domestically.
That’s a huge showing for any movie, and downright fantastic for a movie about a female superhero that’s directed by a woman, two characteristics that, until recently, were assumed to underperform at the box office.
Wonder Woman’s domestic gross handily beats last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($330 million) and Suicide Squad ($325 million). And while it hasn’t yet overtaken those two films’ international sales (or Guardians’, for that matter), its overall gross thus far ($780 million) already outpaces Suicide Squad’s $745 million total and is edging up on Batman v Superman’s $873 million. Last week, Wonder Woman passed the final Harry Potter installment to become Warner Bros.’ third-biggest release of all time, behind Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
Incidentally, Nolan had a big weekend too, with his Dunkirk raking in about $50.5 million, 20 percent more than was projected — helped along in part by strong IMAX ticket sales and positive reactions from both critics and audiences. And with about $30 million, the well-reviewed Girls Trip had the biggest opening weekend for a comedy so far this year, and an even higher Cinemascore (a common barometer of opening-weekend audience reactions) than Dunkirk: Girls Trip earned an A+, while Dunkirk garnered an A-. (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, despite counting Rihanna among its cast, only earned $15 million against its $150 million production budget, and is on track to be a flop.)
All of these box office numbers run against expectations in one way or another, which is becoming a trend in 2017. Wonder Woman was considered a bit of a risk because of its woman-centric story and its director, Patty Jenkins; studios rarely hand big-budget tentpole films to female directors. As a historical war film, Dunkirk was expected to do well, but its director’s name recognition, excellent reviews, and a noteworthy cast (including, importantly, One Direction’s Harry Styles) helped propel it over expectations. And Girls Trip is a comedy starring four black women, which Hollywood usually considers a “niche” film — but its opening week number are far from “niche.”
Whether this expectations-defying trend will continue is anyone’s guess. But it’s starting to look like the summer of 2017 will be remembered as, if not a total game changer, the year the groundwork was laid for a new “Hollywood wisdom.”