LOS ANGELES — Sorry, Batman. So close, yet so far away, Star-Lord. Better luck next time, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Rather, the three most popular movies at theaters in the United States and Canada in 2017 — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Wonder Woman” — were each driven by female characters, something that has not happened in at least 37 years, as far back as full box office data is available. The top comedy of the year, “Girls Trip,” was also anchored by women, as was the top film to play in limited release, “Lady Bird.”
“Women truly emerged as the giants of cinema this year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior comScore analyst, adding Oscar contenders like “The Shape of Water,” “The Post” and “I, Tonya” to the list. “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep as a newspaper publisher coming into her own, has only been playing for 10 days in three cities but has already taken in about $2 million, a strong total that bodes well for its Jan. 12 wide release.
Between Friday and Sunday, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Walt Disney Studios) collected an estimated $52.4 million to become the No. 1 movie of 2017 in North America, with a three-week total of $517 million. Overseas, “The Last Jedi” has taken in an additional $523.3 million and has yet to arrive in China, the world’s second-largest movie market.
“The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johnson, includes prominent male characters like Luke Skywalker. But the film belongs to a quartet of impressive women — Rey, General Leia, Rose Tico and Vice Admiral Holdo — so much so that online trolls and some franchise purists have whined.
Disney also had the No. 2 movie of the year. The live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” with Emma Watson as the warbling Belle, collected $504 million at domestic theaters. Directed by Bill Condon, “Beauty and the Beast” took in $759.5 million overseas.
Third place went to that breaker of comic-book movie glass ceilings, “Wonder Woman,” which lassoed $412.6 million in domestic ticket sales ($409.3 million overseas) for Warner Bros., minting two new A-list stars in the process — the actress Gal Gadot and the director Patty Jenkins.
Overall, the year was a mixed one for studios and theater owners. Domestic ticket sales totaled about $11.12 billion, a 2.3 percent decline from last year and on par with results for 2015. Horror movies, which do not quite play to the same effect on Netflix and other streaming services, were a particular bright spot for theaters, with films like “It” and “Get Out” becoming cultural sensations.
Marvel superheroes also did some heavy lifting. Led by Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was the fourth biggest movie of the year, while “Spider-Man: Homecoming” rounded out the top five. “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Logan” made the top 10.
Underneath those positive results, however, was a grim reality: Ticket sales were propped up by higher prices. Attendance declined by roughly 4 percent, to 1.26 billion, according to analysts, the lowest total in about two decades, as a string of big-budget films stumbled.
Disappointments included “Justice League,” with Ben Affleck as Batman; “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise; “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow; “Baywatch,” led by Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron; and “Alien: Covenant,” directed by Ridley Scott.
Mr. Scott also had a tough time over the weekend with “All the Money in the World” (Sony), a crime drama about the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and his grandfather’s refusal to pay a $17 million ransom. The film, which cost Imperative Entertainment more than $50 million to make, collected about $5.5 million, for a domestic total since arriving on Monday of $12.6 million.
It was a miracle that “All the Money in the World” arrived at all: To the astonishment of Hollywood, Mr. Scott — only six weeks before the film’s release — expunged the disgraced Kevin Spacey, replacing him with Christopher Plummer and refilming extensive sequences. Reviews for the retooled movie were mostly positive. Ticket buyers gave “All the Money in the World” a B grade in CinemaScore exit polls.
Also of note for the year in moviegoing: Only one animated movie, “Despicable Me 3,” ranked among the top 10 ticket sellers. Last year, four films made the cut (“Finding Dory,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Zootopia” and “Sing”). The pullback may involve blurring boundaries — chunks of superhero movies are essentially animated — and sequelitis: “Cars 3” underperformed for Pixar.