The Hollywood Reporter wrote Wednesday that summer box office returns have been their lowest in eight years. Receipts will finish between 15 and 20 percent down from last year and overall domestic revenue likely won’t crack $4 billion. Further, it’s expected that no movie this summer will break $300 million in domestic revenue, the first time that’s happened since 2001.
Following flops and poor openings for films like Sex Tape, A Million Ways to Die in the West and Planes: Fire and Rescue and promising but underwhelming money for the latest Transformers, Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, this much perhaps isn’t that great of surprise. It’s been a mixed to downright dismal season at the movies even if we aren’t looking at hard dollars.
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But then it’s also no surprise that Hollywood is hemorrhaging earnings to VOD releases and TV streaming services. One unnamed studio executive quoted in the THR article said, “”I wished I worked at Netflix.” Theaters have been working harder to get people in the seats with promises of deluxe recliners and food and drink service, and Hollywood just isn’t offering much in the way of help.
It would seem as though things need to change. Any normal business facing this sharp of downturns over the course of a fiscal quarter or year would have someone’s head and have the CEO strongly rethinking their strategy. But Hollywood doesn’t work like any normal business, and they’ll continue to do what they want long after things have become unprofitable.
In one corner, Hollywood has already taken the hint and made some significant changes. The Dissolve declared the summer movie season dead as tentpole franchises like Captain America: The Winter Soldier were released in April and others still, like the new Star Wars movie, will be fall and holiday releases rather than contend with the busy summer. What’s more, Hollywood is taking notice of the fact that previously off-limits dumping grounds like January and February can result in mid-level hits (About Last Night, Ride Along, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and even monster hits (The LEGO Movie).
In the other corner however, does it really look like Hollywood is changing much?
“I think it’s cyclical,” says X-Men producer Simon Kinberg in the THR article. “Next summer will be the biggest box-office summer in history, and nobody will be worrying about the business,” citing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Minions and Jurassic World as promising record breakers. And Kinberg better be right, because studios have used this week at Comic-Con to stake out slots for movies like Pirates of the Caribbean 5 as far out as 2017, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 for 2018 and even some unnamed Marvel movies for 2019.
One of those Marvel films might finally give Scarlett Johansson a full Black Widow movie, but that would be only one small step in Hollywood’s increasingly desperate need to make more female-fronted films and not only cater to teenage boys. This year movies like Maleficent, The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent all are among the highest earners at the box office, but there doesn’t seem to be much urgency in change when the same existing franchises simply get new installments.
For the remainder of this summer, Hollywood can still hope to bank on The Giver, Guardians of the Galaxy, Get on Up, What If, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Let’s Be Cops as potential moneymakers, but who are we kidding? Instead of giving every mildly successful film in history a reboot, it’s time we give this over-saturated release model a much needed reboot.