As film exhibitors begin to draw a curtain on 2017, they can look ahead to an uncannily similar slate of blockbusters in 2018.
The North American box office is holding form with this stat: Eight of the year's top nine films are superhero movies, animated fare, live-action adaptation of popular animated fare -- or "Star Wars." And that's a year after all of the top 11 films fell within those four categories.
If that sounds like simply a long-rolling trend, though, consider that as recently as 2015, those categories collectively were in the minority among the biggest movies. That year, spy flicks ("Spectre," "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation"), non-Star Wars sci-fi ("Jurassic World," "The Martian"), music-infused comedy ("Pitch Perfect 2") and action-adventure ("Furious 7," "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay," "The Revenant") shared the top tier of domestic box office.
As it looks now, however, 2018 could look more like a repeat of 2017.
The biggest domestic film this year is Disney's live-action adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" ($540 million). Next fall, Disney will offer up its live-action adaptation of its animated classic "Mulan," and Warner Bros. will release "Mowgli," its live-action "Jungle Book" movie -- two years after Disney adapted its own animated spun-from-Kipling classic.
This year's next three biggest titles are all superhero franchises: WB/DC's "Wonder Woman," Disney/Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2" and Sony's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" -- with comic-book brethren "Thor: Ragnarok" from Disney/Marvel (at No. 6), Fox's "Logan" (No. 9) and WB/DC's "Justice League" (No. 11) rounding out the top of the list.
Following suit, next year's flood-the-zone slate brings such highly anticipated superhero titles as Disney/Marvel's triple-header of "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" by midsummer, as well as Fox's X-character trifecta of "Deadpool 2," "The New Mutants" and "X-Men: Dark Phoenix." The year's second half also brings Sony/Columbia's "Venom" and WB/DC's "Aquaman."
Turning to cartoons, Universal/Illumination's "Despicable Me 3" (at No. 8), WB/DC's "Lego Batman Movie" (No. 13) and Fox's "The Boss Baby" (No. 15) currently top the year in animation, with Pixar's Thanksgiving release "Coco" gaining ground fast.
Not to be outdone, next year in animation will deliver such big-studio releases as Paramount's "Sherlock Gnomes," Sony/Columbia's "Hotel Transylvania 3," Universal's "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch," Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" sequel "Ralph Breaks the Internet," plus WB's "Smallfoot." There is also Fox Searchlight's "Isle of Dogs," directed by Wes Anderson, a potential charmer. And grabbing their share of the box-office green will be the animated/superhero twofers "The Incredibles 2" (Disney/Pixar) and Sony/Columbia's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," as well as WB's "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies."
As for Star Wars, Christmas will come early in 2018, as Disney/Lucasfilm's one-off "Solo: A Star Wars Story" from Ron Howard lands in May.
So what could break this stranglehold on such nerd fare at the box office?
Well, horror had a banner year in 2017, led by Stephen King's "It" ($327 million) and Jordan Peele's acclaimed "Get Out" ($175 million). Hoping to follow that popularity, next year will trot out such horror films as WB's "The Nun," Paramount's "Overlord" and Universal's "Halloween" (2018) and "Truth or Dare" (like "Get Out," a Blumhouse Production).
But if non-superhero live-action films are to grab a healthy share of the market next year, a lot will ride on action-adventure flicks paced by Paramount's "Mission: Impossible" franchise (the fifth sequel lands midsummer) and fantasy led by the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise ("The Crimes of Grindelwald" is due in the fall).
The big action-adventure titles will also include Fox's "Alita: Battle Angel," WB's "Ocean's 8" and "Ready Player One," Paramount's "Bumblebee" and "Annihilation," and Universal's "Pacific Rim Uprising," "Skyscraper" and "Mortal Engines." And the big fantasy releases include two highly anticipated Disney properties: "A Wrinkle in Time" and the musical "Mary Poppins Returns."
Yet if not many of those titles can crack the top 10, then 2018 will provide filmgoers with a mirror that reflects the same popular tastes as the year we leave behind.