Eight of 2017's top nine films in North America were superhero movies, animated fare, live-action adaptation of popular animated fare - or "Star Wars." And that comes a year after all of the top 11 films fell within those four categories.
If that sounds like 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 resemble a 2017 repeat.
The biggest domestic film in 2017 was Disney's live-action adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." This fall, Disney will offer 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.
Last year's next three biggest titles were all superhero franchises: WB/DC's "Wonder Woman," Disney/Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2" and Sony's "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
Following suit, this year's flood-the-zone slate brings such highly anticipated superhero films 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," WB/DC's "LEGO Batman Movie," Fox's "The Boss Baby" and Pixar's "Coco" topped 2017 in animation.
Not to be outdone, this 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 two-fers "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?
Horror, for one, had a banner year in 2017, led by Stephen King's "It" and Jordan Peele's acclaimed "Get Out." Hoping to follow that popularity, this 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 this 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 also will 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, 2018 will provide filmgoers with a mirror that reflects the same popular tastes as the year we left behind.