by Kyle Ratsch
Our Summer Box Office numbers are in, and the total gross number is down 17.7% from last year, or around $790 million dollars. This is the first time the summer box office has fallen below $4 billion since 2006, and worse for wear, if it wasn’t for Wonder Woman, which made up 11% of this summer’s gross, it would’ve been even worse. So what went wrong? Let’s speculate.
One of the first assumptions we could make would be that the string of poor sequels and remakes have made our movie-viewing audience jaded and we’re not sheep-ing our way into the box office. This is squarely where I sit, but I’m not everyone. I think this is somewhat true, but it’s taken another meta step. It seems like moviegoers don’t trust anything that’s not a mega-blockbusters or something they’re familiar with, AND they’re tired of remakes.
In the top 10 movies of 2017, only 2 are not sequels, remakes, or adaptations: “Dunkirk” and “Girls Trip”. First of all, thank you to those films.
For sequels, the worst performers were Pirates and Transformers. These were the first titles in their series to gross under 200 million, which speaks to the declining quality of the films and viewer’s perception of them. Cars 3 also performed poorly, but even the first Cars film wasn’t regarded as excellent, so it’s not quite the same fall from grace as some of the other series in this list.
Frankly, I’m upset that War for the Planet of the Apes wasn’t higher. I speculate that a lot more kids went to see Spiderman: Homecoming, which it shared theaters with, and Apes generally has a smaller viewer base.
Outside of the top 10, we have:
Last year’s top 20 summer movies averaged at ~$168 million per movie with 13/20 being adaptations, remakes, or sequels. The lowest grossing in the top 20 is 76 Million.
This year’s top 20 summer movies averaged at ~$149 million per movie with 14/20 being adaptations, remakes, or sequels. The lowest grossing in the top 20 is 48 Million. That in and of itself is concerning, but the shocker is that Wonder Woman, Spider-man, and Guardians 2 totalled for $1.123 billion, while the other 17 films in the top 20 totalled for $1.867 billion.
Outside of the top 20 there are several highly-rated movies, such as Wind River and Logan Lucky, that are receiving very little attention. The numbers show that our interests are very top-heavy, and disinterested in taking a risk on lesser-known movies. Higher-ticket prices may have something to do with that, but even during the 2008 housing market crash we managed to give The Dark Knight half a billion dollars, so I wonder how much economy actually plays in.
My second theory for this year’s summer flop is the lack of quality kids movies. This year the superhero movies seemed to serve as the kids entertainment. Outside of super heroes, Despicable Me 3 and Cars 3 totalled for $400 million, which is fairly good (though less money per theater than their predecessors) and then we have Captain Underpants, The Emoji Movie, and The Nut Job 2. Of the three, only Captain Underpants is of quality. The Emoji Movie is a trash-heap, and The Nut Job 2 is a poor sequel we didn’t ask for. These five total for: $589 million.
Here’s a list of the top kids movies in previous summers:
Overall, it seems to be a catch-22. If you’re not Buena Vista, WB, or remaking a comic book story, you shouldn’t do an adaptation (sorry, King Arthur, Dark Tower, etc). Comic Book remakes are successful because they’re capitalizing on large, pre-established fan-bases with media that appeals to wide audiences. Adapting something for the sake of adaptation without a huge fanbase just isn’t working and movie goers don’t seem to be willing to give films without some familiarity a try.
It almost seems like a co-dependant relationship. How do we save it? Well, both sides need to change. We need original and fresh ideas, but we also need to be willing to give the odd film a chance. Maybe repeat box-office drops will scare our market to change for the better, like a small, wallet-oriented riot.
Here’s for hoping.
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