Weekly Recap: Hollywood’s Summer Bummer

Labor Day Weekend is traditionally the end of the summer movie season.  But this year, it seems like summer ended early.  The month of August which can usually be counted on for at least one end-of-the-season surprise came up short.  It was a disappointing ending to a flaccid summer movie season.  2017 is the first crop of summer movies to gross less than four billion dollars in at least a decade.  Worse still, it is estimated to be the least attended summer in twenty-five years!  That’s causing studio execs and exhibitors sleepless nights.

There has been a lot of digital ink spilled this week looking for reasons why this summer was such a bummer.  One obvious answer is that audiences rejected sequels to franchises that had gone on too long already.  Almost no one was excited about another Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers movie.  At least not here in the US.  These movies along with the reboot of The Mummy fared better overseas.  But even there, the news isn’t great.  Hollywood movies are losing market share to international releases, so the foreign market can’t be counted on to save the studios indefinitely.

Of course not all sequels flopped this summer.  Despicable Me 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 were winners as was the Spider-man reboot.  Wonder Woman was an extension of the larger DC shared universe that became the biggest hit of the summer based on strong reviews and appealing to an under-served demographic.  So maybe the problem isn’t sequels so much as it is quality?  But then, the critically derided Emoji Movie did very well for itself despite the bad reviews.

The truth is, there are a number of factors that contributed to a lousy summer movie season.  For one, movies are facing unprecedented competition from entertainment alternatives like Netflix and Hulu.  Audiences have more choices than ever and movies haven’t found a way to adapt.  Meanwhile, ticket prices continue to rise which has made movie-goers more selective about which movies to see in theaters.

On top of that, thanks to social media and aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes, word of mouth travels faster than ever.  In the old days before the internet, the studios could ride out bad reviews for an opening weekend or two.  But these days, word is out on bad movies as soon as they open.  For now, there is a lot of talk in Hollywood about how movies are a cyclical business and there’s truth to that.  The holiday movie season has the potential to save 2017.  Hopefully next Labor Day Weekend, we’re not talking about another disappointing summer movie season.

But you guys didn’t come here for a box office autopsy.  Sundays are all about the Weekly Recap.  So let’s take a look at what was going on here at Le Blog this week.  I’m going to keep the actual recap pretty short and sweet this week because I have a Labor Day thing to go to.  (Before you ask, the lengthy box office summary was written in advance.)

In addition to a three-day weekend, we had birthday’s to celebrate.  Here are this week’s headliners from Jestak’s daily write-ups:

Daffy is currently in Disney World, so I’m sure we can look forward to some vlogs when he gets back.  Before departing he left us with the latest installment in his movie poster puzzle series.  This time, he covered the Marx brothers in A Night at the Opera.  Kevthewriter gave us a double dose of Guy Ritchie with a look at why The Man From U.N.C.L.E. failed to perform as well as Sherlock Holmes.

We had several articles from the Movieline archives this week.  The musically-themed 2002 issue included a list of the best movie soundtracks and an interview with Red Hot Chili Peppers front-man, Anthony Kiedis.  The 1992 issue included an interview with Annabella Sciorra just as her career peaked and director Cameron Crowe at a time when it seemed like maybe he was stalling out.

Finally I recapped the second-to-last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return.  The penultimate installment left me super excited for tonight’s finale although I’m sure going to miss it when it’s over.  I will recap the two-hour finale tomorrow although it may take a little longer than usual on the account of the weekend activities.  Hope you are all enjoying your Labor Day weekend!

Next Week: The Twin Peaks finale, 14 more celebrity birthday headliners, the return of a feature no one asked for, more Movieline and who knows what else!


Posted on September 3, 2017, in Weekly Recap. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Why Hollywood Bombed So Badly This Summer

    Since the peak of the summer of 1999 — spurred by Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and The Blair Witch Project — fewer people in the US and Canada have been going to the movies during the summer, even as rising ticket prices have kept grosses increasing.

    That slow trickle of disappearing audiences became a torrent in 2017. Ticket sales have not been this low since 1992, which was practically a different era in movie-going, when commonplace features of modern movie theaters — stadium seating, multiple screens, assigned seats — were an exception instead of the rule.

    So what happened? Studios have tended to point at the proliferation of entertainment options spurred by internet streaming as the main culprit, which has led to a years-long debate with exhibitors over shortening the window between when a movie is available exclusively in theaters and when audiences can start watching it at home with VOD.

    But there is another factor that studio executives might be less inclined to contemplate: Audiences didn’t go to the movies this summer because the movies themselves were bad.

    To be clear, not all the movies were bad. In fact, many of the most well-reviewed films of the summer — Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dunkirk, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Girls Trip — were also among the most popular. It’s all the rest of the movies released during the season that audiences rejected — movies like The Mummy, The Emoji Movie, Alien: Covenant, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Baywatch, Snatched, The Dark Tower, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The House, The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, Rough Night, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.

    Audiences’ collective indifference to this very, very sad parade of feature films pushed 2017’s summer box office to a landmark nadir.

    Consider that in 2013, the top 10 movies of the summer made up just over half the total ticket sales for the season. Hit films that fell out of the top 10 — like The Conjuring, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Pacific Rim, and This Is the End — spurred that year to the highest seasonal sales of the last 10 years.

    By contrast, 2017’s top 10 films of the summer accounted for 62.5% of total sales.

    Compare this season’s shallow bench to the first three months of this year, which boasted the widest array of hit movies — Beauty and the Beast, Logan, The Lego Batman Movie, Hidden Figures, Get Out, Split, Kong: Skull Island, Fifty Shades Darker, and John Wick: Chapter 2 — and the highest box office grosses in at least 35 years for January through March. If studios want to reverse the rapid, massive audience exodus from movie theaters during the summer, perhaps they should greenlight less tired cash-grab franchise plays, and more expectation-challenging, audience-inclusive movies like Hidden Figures, Logan, Split, and Get Out.


  2. before, during and after the recent election, Hollywood alienated >50% of the potential USA market by calling hard working Americans several bad names.
    These people voted with their feet and wallet.
    That is why the ticket sales are bad.


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