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
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
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
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
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
Whether you want to blame it on the runaway early summer success of The Avengers or the impact of real life tragedy, suffice it to say that The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t delivered the box office numbers that many in the industry were expecting from the final film in such a popular franchise.… Read More
If you try to follow the business end of the film industry too closely, you can get some awfully mixed messages. (I mean “the business end” in the literal sense, although I’d imagine the sentence reads accurately the other way as well.) Perusing the Internet this morning, I found out that a) domestic box office is still on the decline and b) DVD and Blu-ray rentals are continuing to drop as well, though c) IMAX is booming, and d) ticket prices will probably go up, to make it seem like 3D is less of a rip-off. Oh, and e) The Hunger Games had one of the biggest opening weekends in movie history.
In other words, William Goldman was right: In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.
Of course, this whiplash-inducing confusion (are people going to the movies, or not? And if not, where are they seeing them?) is a natural byproduct of the cinema’s current state of transition, where people are as engaged and passionate as ever about movies, but changing the ways they watch them. And that’s why we’re curious about you, the Flavorwire reader: how do you see movies these days? … Read More