Why Summer Blockbusters are Failing

9 Jun

There has been a lot of talk recently about the poor numbers in the box office so far this summer and how all of the sequels and re-makes are “under-performing.” I have read a couple of opinion pieces on this so far and all of them seem to cite some reference to the economic recession finally taking its toll after a booming box office last summer. What I think these articles fail to point the finger at are the films themselves and the fact that their audiences are maturing.

I think there is one film that changed the way the box office works,  2008’s “The Dark Knight.” Right then, audiences started to realize something and say, “Wait, wait, wait….you’re telling me a movie sequel can have cool special effects, great script, solid acting, and a great director? I thought you could only do 2 out of 4 in summer movies.” Eager for more of these solid sequels and re-makes in the summer of 2009 they flooded the movie theaters and were greeted with Star Trek. While I am not a particular fan of Star Trek, I can see how its fans and many people would enjoy it and it was a well-done update of the series. This got all the summer blockbuster people excited because it was a promising start and it was just getting started. Or was it? They immediately were confronted with such poorly executed films as  X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers 2, Terminator: Salvation,  Night at the Museum 2 and a host of other disappointing re-makes  and re-treads (Land of the Lost, Funny People, Bruno, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, etc.)  What had happened to the promise of originality? What happened to the smarter movies that were now desired? What happened to Rachel Dawson (the most pointless love interest in superhero movies) meeting a fiery death?

I take this summer’s low box office as a promising sign that maybe summer movie audiences are finally smartening up instead of buying into the crap that is being fed them now. They are tired of the lame worn-out sequels and re-treads because Hollywood just doesn’t seem like they’re even trying to have an ounce of originality anymore. Now that a summer film like “The Dark Knight” came out those big-shot Hollywood producers know they are caught red-handed and the jig is up. They tried force feeding the viewers the same old crap that might have gone over well before “The Dark Knight,” but like a little toddler who discovers solid food is so much better than baby food, the summer movie audiences tastes are maturing  and they won’t go back to baby food. Hollywood is trying to say it is the recession to stall from having to face the fact that the largest part of their summer movie audience is demanding originality and instead they want to believe their audience is composed of the MTV Movie Award selection panel of pre-pubescent teenage girls.

The most anticipated movie this summer (if you talk to anyone besides Twilight fans), from what I hear people talking about, is another Christopher Nolan movie “Inception.” From the previews the audience can tell that this is the movie they have been waiting for. They can skip the sequels and re-treads and save their money for this one because this is what they are looking for now, not Shrek or Jake Gyllenhaal in the Palest Persian movie (I keep hoping that someone will send him to the same fiery death as his sister’s character in The Dark Knight).


4 Responses to “Why Summer Blockbusters are Failing”

  1. Jeremy Petersen June 10, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    I wish I could share your rosey view of the American moviegoer, but I think you’re being a bit optimistic. Look at how much money gimmicky movies that are long on effects but short on story have made just in the last six months. Granted they didn’t come out in the summer, but Avatar (certainly groundbreaking, but a thin story), Alice in Wonderland, and Clash of the Titans all essentially cashed in on the 3D hype as a way of making bank. Of the top 5 movies at the box office this year, only How to Train Your Dragon is a new story (though Burton does essentially recreate Alice, the characters aren’t exactly new); more than likely Sex and the City 2 will crack the top 10 for the year to date before its run is done as well. Basically, I think the American moviegoer is still by-and-large drawn to stories that are familiar and/or nostalgic and are looking for anything resembling a shot of adrenaline, however short-lived it may be. We’ll see how things play out in the next few weeks as more of the stereotypical blockbusters start coming out.

    • Chris Petersen June 10, 2010 at 9:10 am #

      I am a little optimistic because while Avatar did really well, I don’t think that is going to carry over to this summer. There will be films that do well, but compare to last summer the top box office grossings are significantly lower. The quality of films last summer was atrocious. Yes, Sex and the City 2 will probably be high in the overall box office scheme of 2010, but based on what was predicted it will be about 40% lower than expected. I think last summer’s summer box office left a bad taste in people’s mouths and are more skeptical. There are going to be a lot of suckers still, but I think the big blockbusters aren’t going to do nearly as well as they would have last summer.

  2. Jeremy Petersen June 10, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Here’s another question for you–if blockbusters really are in decline, is that a good thing for the film industry as a whole? Maybe more artistic–and therefore more risky– films need these shallow, easy films to make big bucks so that studios will fund the projects with more artistic value. If the theaters were filled with only films that fit our vague ideas of artistic merit, there would be a lot fewer movies I think.

    • Chris Petersen June 10, 2010 at 9:35 am #

      From an economic standpoint, no. However, I am hoping that the industry realizes that blockbuster movies need a little more thought than they are offering. They may have to shell out some more money to get a decent script and a decent product, but I believe that it will pay off if they put some more thought into it. I am not saying they only need to make artistic movies, I am just saying a little more effort would be nice.

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