As of this writing — and I'll explain in a bit why things will look even worse on Monday — the 2017 summer box office is 8% behind last year. Overall, the year-to-year box office is down 2%. And that is probably the good news, or at least not the worst news. The no good, very bad, OMG! news is that Hollywood is also running out of franchises.
The once surefire and lucrative Cars, Alien, Smurfs, Underworld, Resident Evil, and Transformers golden geese are probably dead. With massive production and advertising (P&A) budgets — that box office returns must at least double in order for the studios to merely break even (theatres take an average of 50%; China takes 75%) — even the foreign markets can't save these duds.
A number of other big franchises are hardly worth the time or are sinking fast: Kong: Skull Island, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Pirates, all fell short of expectations. Even Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is being hailed as savior of this tired franchise, has only cleared $640 million worldwide. There might still be some foreign territories left for it to conquer, but enough to equal even the $709 million the disappointing Amazing Spider-Man 2 grossed worldwide in 2014? We will see.
Then there are the franchises that never were, the half-billion dollar gambles strangled in the crib by moviegoers: The Mummy, King Arthur, The Dark Tower (probably), and Power Rangers.
The few bright spots are very few. Although it underperformed here in the U.S., the eighth chapter in the Fast and Furious franchise made over a billion dollars overseas alone. Then there is Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Despicable Me, Star Wars, Avengers, Justice League, and LEGO.
Nevertheless, for an industry that has boxed itself into a terrible corner, that created a Franchise Frankenstein responsible for killing off every other avenue of box office success (the movie star, the mid-budget titles aimed at grown-ups, the family comedy, etc.), things are looking dismal.
With the R-rated comedy comatose, other than cheap horror films, franchises are now the only golden geese Hollywood has, and they are dying off at an alarming rate.
And come Monday, things are going to look even worse compared to last year. The poorly reviewed Dark Tower might make somewhere around $20 million this weekend, but on this same weekend in 2016, the poorly reviewed Suicide Squad cleared $133 million.
Things are so bad, Bloomberg reports that "Hollywood Might Not Bounce Back From Theaters’ $1.3 Billion Stock Collapse".
[M]ovie studios and theaters are beginning to acknowledge that their streak of record-setting ticket sales may be coming to an end. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the world’s biggest cinema chain, laid out a worse-than-projected outlook for the North American box office this week. …
Even with a new “Star Wars,” a Marvel superhero movie and the sequel to “Blade Runner” on the docket for the holiday season, the box office is unlikely to make up for a “severe hit” in the third quarter[.]
And here is some of the bottom line:
The concern is that the slump isn’t just a run of bad luck. Cinema operators have managed for years to keep increasing sales by raising ticket prices amid stagnant attendance, but a sharp drop in filmgoing would make that harder to sustain. And the tried-and-true formula of churning out big-budget sequels and cinematic universes populated with superbeings seems to be wearing on filmgoers.
What baffles me, and what has baffled me for going on a decade, is how no one will come out and just speak the simple truth — movies just are not very good anymore. This should have been apparent as soon as the once-lucrative home video market began its collapse. Who wants to purchase a movie they didn’t enjoy at the theater?
Anyway, it is all finally catching up to Hollywood: the increase in ticket prices, the high-priced IMAX and 3D gimmicks used for a decade to boost revenue even as attendance stagnated or dropped, was only going to fool so many people for so long.
Dear Movie Industry:
Your product sucks.
The more out of touch Hollywood becomes, the worse its product becomes, and there is little chance anything will ever change.