Though the breakout success of “Black Panther” is likely to quiet some worries about superhero fatigue, distributors and exhibitors working the mid-range and low-budget end of the spectrum are facing some doubts about the viability of their product in the age of tentpoles and streaming media.
The situation isn’t dire. A largely tepid year for specialty releases was offset by a strong awards-season showing for a handful of films. The breakouts of 2017 included “The Shape of Water” ($63.5 million), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” ($54.2 million), “Lady Bird” ($48.9 million), “The Big Sick” ($42.8 million) and “Wind River” ($33.8 million).
“It’s definitely a tough time,” says Jeff Bock, box office analyst for the tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.