Spoiler alert: This weekend’s movie review will be a “retro” review, that is, a review of an older work. Why? It’s because unless something changes between the time I type this up and the time it sees print, there will be no new movies opening up locally… or, at least, no new movie within a reasonable driving distance of where I live. That’s right: Labor Day weekend, and no wide releases.
See that article? It’s the latest in a series that Box Office Mojo’s done in which they’ve been completely freaking out about how bad things have been this year. Sony in particular ended up taking some lumps; while “The Emoji Movie” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” made some serious bank, it looks like they’ll have to subsidize “The Dark Tower” (which appears inclined to take a loss after promotional and other expenses are factored in) and other films. (Fun fact: six of Sony’s twelve highest domestic gross films are “Spider-Man” titles - http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/chart/?studio=sony.htm .) Given that they’re still recovering from last year’s “Ghostbusters: Answer The Call” fiasco, this isn’t good.
So what’s the point spread for the year? Let’s check the domestic take: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2017&p=.htm . As we can see, while we have a grand total of 20 films past the $100 million mark (“John Wick 2” just couldn’t cross it), only 7 have made it past the $200 million mark, with all seven being either franchises or reboots. From there, most of the 20 are reboots or franchises. Original films have been paling next to these titles… which in turn have been underperforming. Yes, the live-action “Beauty And The Beast” went past $500 million domestically and “Wonder Woman” went past $300 million domestically, but other franchises – like “Transformers” – rather significantly underperformed compared to other entries.
I’ve seen a lot of speculation from a lot of different sources as to why this could be. In some instances, speculation has focused on individual movies themselves. In other instances, the focus is on “sequel fatigue” or something of that nature. Essentially, people are just tired of seeing sequel after sequel so this hypothesis goes; this is one of the things Vox blames in their retrospective: https://www.vox.com/summer-movies/2017/8/29/16184610/summer-movies-wrapu... . Other things they blame include the rise of streaming services and the cost of the theater experience, making people want to stay home.
Depending upon who you talk to, however, there are a lot of lessons studios can take from what’s going on. For example, the above Vox article recommends more “diverse” creative teams and more willingness to experiment with new concepts and ideas. It also notes how critical promotion can be, including word of mouth. (In fact, I recall people crediting poor advance promotion for “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” tanking.) Neither of the three, in my opinion, are guaranteed tickets to success, but they are worth keeping in mind for future projects. I’d also suggest a willingness to back smaller studios whose indie status gives them different perspectives.
But what can audiences do? Your better cinemas will have websites that let you know what’s playing and when. Once you find that out, you can go ahead and seek information on any movies that interest you. Then, if you find a film you like and you can afford it, go see it. Ultimately, that’s what Hollywood looks at: the box office.
So that’s where we are, folks. It’s a slump, but fixing it is well in your hands.