This past weekend was the worst total box office of any weekend in ten years. If you consider how much more expensive a movie ticket is now than it was ten years ago you can get a picture of how catastrophic this weekend was for the film industry. It was so sparse this weekend that rather than have me review the one meager offering this week (a Christian-themed unlicensed Elvis biopic) I’m here to give you a run down on Hollywood’s disaster summer and try looking ahead to determine if film is in an inescapable death spiral.
This summer was off 15% from last year’s take, and I assure you it was not because our nation’s exhibitors decided to slash ticket prices across the board. Guardians of the Galaxy was the only big hit this summer and not for lack of trying on the part of every other movie. We had big name sequels like Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes fail to connect with an audience. All of those movies made $200 million dollars, which used to be a barometer of big success but you have to remember that’s now what The Avengers did in one weekend. There isn’t a movie released in 2014 that has out-grossed the first 10 days of The Avengers.
The poor results this year may have more to do with the movies that didn’t come out than the ones that did. Pixar moved The Good Dinosaur from this summer allegedly to fix “story problems” and while that doesn’t sound like the strongest movie in the world Pixar is usually good for some good money, this summer felt particularly starved for kids movies so the latent demand was probably there. The unexpected death of Paul Walker pushed Fast & Furious 7 to next year and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it would have been the highest grossing movie of the year had it released. Those movies wouldn’t have just added dollars to the ecosystem, they also would have likely drawn some money from other films but there’s no question losing a big franchise and the most successful studio in animation was a serious blow.
Hollywood loves to think the movie business is coming to an end. It happened when the television was introduced, when the VCR came out, when movies on VHS got cheaper, when DVDs were popularized, when high-definition TV became cheap, and now we’re in the doom saying cycle with streaming services. None of the other things killed movies so I seriously doubt this one will either. Nothing you do in your house is the same as the experience of going to the movies and it seems as if people from all walks of life around the world simply like going to the movies. Give people movies they want to see and they will go to the theater no matter what is in their living room.
Luckily, next year Hollywood seems much more prepared to give people what they want. We have The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which will almost certainly break every box office record we have. We have Finding Dory, the sequel to one of the most successful movies ever made and a likely box office titan. We have the delayed Fast & Furious sequel primed to do good business. People say they hate sequels but they really don’t; they hate bad sequels and this year that’s all they got. Next year will be the biggest year ever and such a substantial boost over this year that industry pundits will be writing long pieces about how movies have never been better and no one will remember how soft things were this year when they note that sales are up 25% or whatever they are. It is only in this last paragraph that I realized that I am now also an entertainment industry pundit and if you’ll excuse me I need to take a long shower.