box office

Could the Low-Budget Comedy Save Hollywood?

Twenty years ago, the highest-grossing movie of the summer wasn’t a budget-busting superhero movie, an explosion-driven sequel, a remake, a reboot, or (God help us) the fourth in a series of toy-based films about cars that turn into robots. The highest-grossing movie of the summer — of the year, in fact — was a mid-budget comedy/drama called Forrest Gump, which ended up winning six Oscars and grossing an astonishing $677 million worldwide, on a $55 million budget. Studios made mid-level movies like Gump back then (and not just in Oscar season); the following year, Universal’s Waterworld would make headlines and prompt giggles of derision when its budget zipped past $100 million. Such a thing was unheard of. Now, it’s impossible to imagine a major studio summer movie costing less than $100 million — unless, of course, it’s a film counter-programmed to make people laugh. … Read More

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Hollywood Is on Crack: What This Weekend’s Horrible Holiday Box Office Says About Cinema’s Blockbuster Fixation

If you spend too much time reading the weekly movie box office reports, the headlines can all start to blur together: “SUPERHERO MOVIE OPENS BIG,” “SUPERHERO SEQUEL TOPS ORIGINAL,” “TRANSFORMERS MOVIE BREAKS RECORDS IN FIRST WEEK,” “TRANSFORMERS MOVIE BREAKS RECORDS FOR SECOND WEEK DROP-OFF,” etc. etc. But there’s nothing normal about the headlines this Fourth of July weekend. Variety: “SUMMER BOX OFFICE DOWN NEARLY 20% AFTER JULY 4TH FILMS FIZZLE.” Box Office Mojo: “’TRANSFORMERS’ REPEATS ON WEAK INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND.” The Hollywood Reporter: “WHAT’S BEHIND SUMMER’S FREE FALL AT THE BOX OFFICE?” And Gawker, as usual, is not afraid to put too fine a point on it: “NO ONE WENT TO THE MOVIES THIS FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND.” So, uh, what happened? … Read More

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Will November’s Diverse Blockbusters Kill Hollywood’s Teenage Boy Obsession?

It was a very big Thanksgiving weekend at the American box office. In its second weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire brought in $109 million, beating the five-day Thanksgiving record set by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Meanwhile, Disney’s debuting Frozen did a bang-up $93 million in the same time frame, itself setting a record for the biggest Thanksgiving opening ever (a mantle it nabbed from Toy Story 2). Neither record comes as a surprise; these were big, widely marketed movies from a tentpole franchise and cinematic brand name, respectively. But they had something in common: both were films with female protagonists, and their massive grosses were driven by female moviegoers. “That’s box-office Girl Power,” notes The Wrap, and if the word choice is cringe inducing, the sentiment is spot-on. … Read More

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What Did Hollywood Learn From This Summer’s Box Office? The Wrong Thing, Probably

Headline from The New York Times magazine, September 3, 2013: “Hollywood’s Tanking Business Model.”

Headline from Box Office Mojo, September 3, 2013: “Summer 2013 Sets New Record with $4.76 Billion.”

Compare, contrast, discuss. … Read More

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3 Lessons Hollywood Should Learn from This Summer’s 3 Big-Budget Bombs

After a protracted production period, a series of cancellations and restarts, and a lengthy conversation over racism and representation, Disney’s big-budget, big-screen adaptation of The Lone Ranger landed in theaters over the holiday weekend, and the results weren’t pretty. Its five-day domestic gross was a mere $48.9 million (with just under $30 million more coming in from foreign markets), meaning that the Mouse House is going to take a real bath on the picture — its budget was somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million, and that’s before its substantial marketing and distribution costs. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, that means we’re only halfway into summer movie season, but we’ve already seen three very high-profile belly flops. What’s going wrong? … Read More

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Making Movies With Statistics Isn’t Just Artistic Suicide — It Won’t Work

Sunday’s New York Times included a story that movie fans should find as terrifying as anything since the last 20 minutes of Silence of the Lambs. In it, writer Brooks Barnes introduces us to Vinny Bruzzese, a “chain-smoking former statistics professor” who has “started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation. For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers.” In other words, studios write Bruzzese and his company a check, and in exchange, they’re told how to make their movies as bland, homogenous, and predictable as possible. Sounds like the recipe for a golden age of moviemaking! … Read More

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