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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film-Yak   » This summer has sucked, as if that wasn't obvious (Variety article) (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: This summer has sucked, as if that wasn't obvious (Variety article)
Mike Blakesley
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 - posted 07-11-2017 03:20 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
How Too Many Aging Franchises Wrecked the Summer Box Office

The summer box office is sending out an SOS.

Once formidable franchises such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers” keep hitting icebergs like poor reviews and tepid word of mouth. As these costly tentpoles take on water, the summer’s domestic ticket sales have so far sunk 9% from last year, leaving studio executives and industry insiders queasy.

“It’s been a dud by any definition,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “There are a lot of tired, creaky franchises out there. In the past, studios looked at sequels as safety nets meant to catch a lot of money, but they’re not catching as much as they used to.”

One shipwreck after another has extinguished prior hopes of a record summer. As high as expectations are for several July releases including “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which had a successful debut this past weekend, and the July 14 release of “War for the Planet of the Apes,” a lackluster August without a “Suicide Squad” in sight will bring the business crashing back to Earth.

Part of the blame lands on studios’ engagement in release-date brinkmanship, a dangerous game that’s led executives to carve out the choicest opening weekends years in advance. Planting a flag that far ahead usually requires leveraging a well-known franchise or cinematic universe, which often means deciding when several sequels and spinoffs will debut before a script is even in place. This summer, fatigue appears to have set in, with many once popular film series failing to justify their continued existence. There’s no discernible reason for Johnny Depp to unfurl the Black Pearl’s skull-and-crossbows banner for yet another voyage or for Optimus Prime to save humanity from extinction for the fifth time in a decade. Perhaps the studios should have waited for filmmakers to be more inspired before giving their movies the greenlight.

“Your landscape is littered with sequels and fourth and fifth versions of movies,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s distribution chief. “Not exactly a landscape that is littered with originality.”

When Hollywood has tried to create new hits, the results have been sobering. Warner Bros. once hoped that “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” a hyperkinetic Guy Ritchie-directed epic, would launch a new action series, but the film was greeted with withering reviews and paltry ticket sales. Likewise, “The Mummy,” once intended to kick off Universal’s Dark Universe of monsters and fantastical creatures, floundered, grossing a moribund $76.5 million stateside through July 6. It’s possible that some of these movies were out of step with the times, offering grit and darkness at a time when audiences are desperate for a reprieve from depressing headlines about global terrorism and healthcare cuts.

“The mood in the world is one of caution, and when you can go to a movie theater for a couple of hours and lose it all in the screen, that’s been the hallmark of the movie business for many, many years,” said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment. “And I have felt in the last two or three months it’s never been more important.”

Even as the business’s fortunes fade (box office revenue to date stands at $2.29 billion, compared with last year’s $2.49 billion), there’s some help on the way. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” successfully rebooted the web-spinner franchise by replacing Andrew Garfield with a more youthful Tom Holland and sending the character back to high school. It opened to a sizable $117 million.

Buzz is also building for three upcoming summer releases — “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic; “Atomic Blonde,” an action spy thriller with Charlize Theron; and “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the third installment in the science-fiction trilogy.

Still, even if those films deliver, and so far most of Hollywood’s offerings have fallen short of expectations, the domestic box office will likely end the summer down significantly from 2016. August looks like a dead zone. Last summer, “Suicide Squad” racked up $325.1 million at the tail end of the season, while “Don’t Breathe” and “Sausage Party” also did big business before school vacations ended. This year, fewer films seem guaranteed to do robust business. Still, studios are trying to maintain an optimistic front.

“It’s not surprising to see an ebb and flow from year to year — the market is dependent on a lot of factors, including the quality of the films, buzzworthiness and competition,” said Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis. “If there’s a film people are excited about, they don’t wait to see it.”

In many cases, what excites people in the U.S. is very different from what animates consumers abroad. Films such as “The Mummy” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” have struggled domestically while earning more than 75% of their grosses overseas. Splashy special effects still feel like novelties in countries like China.

“It’s getting harder to create content that appeals to every audience around the world,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “There’s a real disconnect between the set of requirements for a big hit in North America and what people consider to be great fun in other parts of the world.”

International ticket sales this summer are up 2% from 2016.

While it may be too early to write obituaries for the movie theaters, the downturn couldn’t come at a worse time for the business. Theater stocks have been pummeled as investors grow skittish about the possibility that exhibitors will reach a deal that would allow studios to release movies on demand early. AMC, the world’s largest chain, for instance, has seen its share price slip nearly 29% to $21.70 from just over $30 in the past three months, while Regal’s share price dropped 10% to $19.40 from $21.60. Studios are offering to cut theater owners in on a slice of the profits, but Wall Street is concerned that exhibitors may be hastening their own demise by enabling consumers to skip the multiplexes and just wait a few weeks for a movie to come out on home entertainment platforms.

Box office prognosticators and exhibition analysts believe that even if the summer ends on a sour note, the rest of 2017 seems more promising. They believe that “Justice League,” Pixar’s “Coco,” and, particularly, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” all of which hit theaters in the final quarter of the year, will lure audiences back to the cinema. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll prove potent enough to propel ticket sales to another record.

“Nothing seems to cure the ills of the movie business better than a ‘Star Wars’ movie,” said Imax’s Foster.

Variety article

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Justin Hamaker
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 - posted 07-11-2017 04:31 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think it's just fatigue for sequels, but also for genres. Had the exact same Wonder Woman film opened 2-3 years ago, I suspect it would have opened stronger and done better overall. At least it's had legs which should allow it to top $400 million.

And then there are the adult comedies which have been completely forgettable.

On the other hand, a very well reviewed original movie in Baby Driver has failed to catch on and find an audience. This is one that's concerning to me because it may show a deeper issue than just fatigue over franchises, sequels/prequels/spinoffs, and forgettable movies.

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Frank Cox
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I certainly haven't had a great number of movies here this year that draw much of a crowd. The wonderful thing about a theatre, of course, is that I keep thinking, "Next week it's going to pick up!" [Smile]

Given the right movie I can pack this place all week. But the right movie is pretty scarce these days.

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Harold Hallikainen
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 - posted 07-11-2017 04:48 PM      Profile for Harold Hallikainen   Author's Homepage   Email Harold Hallikainen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
These sequels and super-hero movies are not going to get any ticket purchases from me. The latest movies we've seen and enjoyed include: Get Out, Obit, The Big Sick, Monterey Pop, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper. This week we're going to see Maudie.

Harold

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 07-11-2017 05:18 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Justin Hamaker
On the other hand, a very well reviewed original movie in Baby Driver has failed to catch on and find an audience. This is one that's concerning to me because it may show a deeper issue than just fatigue over franchises, sequels/prequels/spinoffs, and forgettable movies.
Things are often a little different across the pond, but the signs of the times are pretty similar if you look at the big picture.

But it's not like we didn't see this coming, I remember somewhat heated discussions about just this a year or two ago on this same forum.

But, over here Baby Driver seems to do pretty fine, it actually drew in more people last weekend than Transformers and The Mummy combined. It's one of those movies that needs to build a crowd, it wasn't heavily advertised and it seems to grow on word of mouth.

What I hear from everyone I speak about it though is pretty simple: People are really tired of this constant franchise reheat. Besides the obvious fans of superhero movies, nobody really seems to care anymore about the latest and greatest superhero movie. Many of them already lost track. Most of them even don't know the difference between DC and Marvel franchises, most of them don't even care.

Besides the endless barrage of reheat this year, even the "original" releases were utter meh, like "King Arthur", which is also just a hodgepodge of old stories mixed into something "new" and totally forgettable.

I have a little hope for Dunkirk, but most people around me have indicated they feel pretty little for yet another WW2 movie.

There are so many good stories out there, why is it so difficult for Hollywood to pick the right ones? Why do we need to see the same movie over and over again?

Let's just end this Groundhog Day situation and start telling stories again. Maybe we should ask politicians to impose a temporary maximum budget for movies, as it turns out that right now, the amount of money poured into a movie seems to be inversely related to the quality of said movie.

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Martin McCaffery
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quote: Marcel Birgelen
as it turns out that right now, the amount of money poured into a movie seems to be inversely related to the quality of said movie.
Time for a return to Dogme 95? [Wink]

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Marcel Birgelen
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Maybe we should install Dogme 17, a bail-out fund for failed Hollywood Studios, but in order to participate, your movies have to conform our rules.

I'm willing to pony up $10 and 2 cents. The great thing is, if we use Dogma 95 as template, we can get like 10 movies out of those $10.02 and still have 2 cents left. [Wink]

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 07-11-2017 06:12 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
and the great confessions afterwards!

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Lyle Romer
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 - posted 07-11-2017 10:33 PM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Justin Hamaker
I don't think it's just fatigue for sequels, but also for genres.
Exactly on point. Enough superhero movies. My wife and I went to see Baby Driver for no reason other than it was something different. It wasn't as good as I expected but at least it wasn't yet another "save the cat" superhero movie.

The good superhero movies like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 1 & 2 (Toby Maguire) were story driven with a superhero as the protagonist. The normal Avengers type movie with people flying around in costumes having pointless battles that you know they will win just get boring the 15th time you see the same thing with different characters/actors.

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Bobby Henderson
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quote: Justin Hamaker
On the other hand, a very well reviewed original movie in Baby Driver has failed to catch on and find an audience. This is one that's concerning to me because it may show a deeper issue than just fatigue over franchises, sequels/prequels/spinoffs, and forgettable movies.
Multiple factors are possible, but with a movie as good as Baby Driver struggling I think there is a broader, more sinister issue affecting theater traffic: the broad downturn in retail.

Rhetorical question: where are most movie theaters located? Retail shopping centers. They might be built inside an old fashioned indoor shopping mall or built on a large pad site next to the mall. Most stand-alone theaters are at least within rock-throwing distance of a big box strip of stores. I've seen a lot of theaters built as a focal point or even center piece of outlet malls and trendy outdoor "town center" malls.

Brick and mortar retail has been getting killed lately by online merchants. Big retail chains of all types and market segments have been closing hundreds of locations. JCPenney is in bankruptcy. Sears, a 100+ year old icon of American retail, probably won't survive to the end of this decade. Neiman Marcus, Macys and many other big box stores are struggling badly. Lots of smaller chains have gone out of business. Remember video rental stores? They're not extinct yet, but are well on that path. The same goes for music stores. Very few stores that have a store front are immune to the threat from online merchants.

One thing that really angers me is how both average Americans and the media apparently love this situation. They regard it as "the future of retail." Here's a little news flash for these idiots: 80% of America's jobs base is in the services provided sector. Countless millions of jobs are in those places with retail store fronts. If enough physical stores close the economy will go to shit. Movie theaters are already feeling it via the lack of foot traffic in shopping centers. As the contagion spreads, with more and more retail buildings sitting empty, real estate values will plummet and job losses will spread. If this cannibalistic trend of killing retail persists it will put me out of my job designing signs.

It takes a hell of a lot more than just sales tax receipts to support a local economy. And most online merchants don't even collect sales tax. They return ZERO to the local economy where a purchased product was shipped.

A locally owned and operated business re-circulates much of what it earns back into the local economy. The business owner and his employees live in or near the community. They pay property tax to support local schools and other taxes to support infrastructure, police, fire dept, city operations, etc. Local businesses often do business with each other (like buying signs from my work place). Walmart and other similar stores were a destructive force against locally owned businesses. However, even big box chains need to hire electricians, plumbers, landscapers and others to keep their operations running. Online merchants don't do any of that.

Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos is now the 3rd richest man in the world. He's made no secret he wants Amazon eating into every market that has a store front. I wonder if he understands many of his customers are working in those places that have a store front. What's he going to do when he and his fellow online merchants put all those businesses out of business? It's going to be kind of difficult for those customers to buy anything from Amazon when they don't have a damned job.

Aside from the crisis in retail, this bad situation for movie theaters is being compounded by all the self-inflicted problems in the movie industry.

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Martin McCaffery
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quote: Bobby Henderson
What's he going to do when he and his fellow online merchants put all those businesses out of business?
Cash out, retire and watch the new order consume each other?

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Bobby Henderson
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If that's really Bezos' plan then he had better isolate himself on some tropical island just like a Bond villain. Otherwise, when America's next great economic depression takes hold, crowds will drag him out of his estate and have their way with him in the street.

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Marcel Birgelen
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quote:
and the great confessions afterwards!
Maybe we should combine that with an Alan Smithee reunion tour.

We should make an A. Smithee mask for directors who really don't want to be recognized. I'd say we take the face of Michael Bay as template. I'm not entirely sure if we should paint a target on the forehead or not.

quote: Bobby Henderson
Aside from the crisis in retail, this bad situation for movie theaters is being compounded by all the self-inflicted problems in the movie industry.
Personally, I think people will always have the need for entertainment and distraction. The movie industry might not be the oldest industry in the world, but still it has managed to keep itself in position during many crises. Baby Driver is an R-rated movie that might not have the same broad appeal like many of those big budget tent-pole releases, but if we could've just two or three more "Baby Drivers" this summer, then I'm pretty sure the situation would look a bit different.

quote: Bobby Henderson
What's he going to do when he and his fellow online merchants put all those businesses out of business? It's going to be kind of difficult for those customers to buy anything from Amazon when they don't have a damned job.
It's rather off-topic, but this is one of the core problems we're facing in the "western world" at large. How we react to those challenges will greatly define what our future will look like and how much we'll still matter in this world.

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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 - posted 07-12-2017 10:26 AM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The success of online merchants are the symptom, not the illness. These national brick and mortar retailers who are now hurting spent decades crushing their locally owned competition by better meeting consumer needs. Unfortunately, once they drove all but a few local competitors out of business, they got lazy. By building the same big department stores in every mall, they started competing with their own stores. In many major markets, they all but stopped television advertising. They either went high end selling items for significantly more than they could be obtained online, or low end with no sales staff and insufficient cashiers. Why wait for 20 minutes to checkout when I can point, click, and the next day the item will be on my doorstep.

> Sears, a 100+ year old icon of American retail, probably won't survive to the end of this decade.

In 1985, I went to Sears to buy a dishwasher. I was explicitly told the one I wanted was in stock. I was explicitly told that Sunday delivery was available. After purchase, I called the phone number that I was provided to confirm delivery, and was told that Sunday delivery was NOT available. I took a day off from work to get a weekday delivery. They did not show up. When I called, I was told it was not in stock, but backordered. I drove back to the store, got my money refunded, and have not set foot in a Sears store since. Good Riddance.

I miss Radio Shack, but they priced themselves out of the market, and discontinued everything that made them unique. My closest Radio Shack was in a strip mall with a supermarket, which sold batteries for significantly less than RS. I stopped going into RS for batteries, and with that, stopped buying the many nifty gadgets that they at one time sold.

I used to buy all my underwear at Walmart. Either they did not have the brand I wanted, or when they did, not the size I needed. Then, a few years ago, I discovered that I could point, click and Amazon would have exactly what I wanted on my doorstep 2 days later, and cheaper.

I have just gotten use to the convenience of buying online for almost everything. While I still prefer to buy at Brick & Mortar stores, it has gotten to the point I don't even look anymore, I just go online.

Online merchants just give people another option for people who are not being served by their local stores.

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Bobby Henderson
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quote: Marcel Birgelen
Personally, I think people will always have the need for entertainment and distraction. The movie industry might not be the oldest industry in the world, but still it has managed to keep itself in position during many crises. Baby Driver is an R-rated movie that might not have the same broad appeal like many of those big budget tent-pole releases, but if we could've just two or three more "Baby Drivers" this summer, then I'm pretty sure the situation would look a bit different.
Past examples of history don't really apply here. We're in uncharted territory with this situation. For instance, Sears is just as old as the movie industry (started in 1886, 131 years ago). That icon of American retail has been through all sorts of ups and downs, but it looks like Sears is now on its death bed. Some of its problems were created a decade ago by the idiot hedge fund managers who own it and Kmart. But online competition is clearly pushing the century old chain into its grave.

People may always have a need for entertainment and distraction, but they're consuming more and more of their entertainment and distraction at home. Every business with a store front needs enough foot traffic coming into the place to make payroll, rent, cover utilities, maintenance and on and on. Online merchants don't have nearly as much overhead. If the foot traffic drops below a certain threshold that brick and mortar business will go out of business.

Hardly anyone is going to say, declaritively, "I'm only buying stuff online!" People are just getting more in the habit of staying at home, being seduced by the convenience of buying, renting or pirating something with a few button clicks.

The movie industry, consumed with gaming positive cash flow, doesn't realize how it is making this problem worse -how they're making it so much easier for their customers to just stay at home. A 3 month theatrical release window is nothing. And the studios are demanding to shrink that further. When the content they're selling has only marginal appeal, due largely to the stinky fumes of "seen that 1000 times already," it makes it even easier to skip the theater and wait for the movie to show up on TV. Compound the problem with high ticket prices, high concession prices and the need to pay even more if you want projection and surround sound worth a damn. Even worse yet, lots of people (especially younger adults) have these modded Fire Sticks loaded with piracy apps. To me it looks like the movie theater business could be drifting into the same dire circumstance as video rental stores, retail music stores and retail book stores.

quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
Online merchants just give people another option for people who are not being served by their local stores.
Online merchants are not immune to customer service screw-ups like the one you experienced at a Sears store. They also have their own limitations, like not providing a way for the customer to check out the product in person. But then that's why we have "show-rooming," where some jackass comes into the Sears store where my mother works, talks her ear off about a refrigerator and then goes home to order it from an online outlet sales tax free.

None of my neighbors work for online merchants. There aren't any online merchants buying anything from my place of work, helping me make my living.

If this apocalypse of brick and mortar retail really gets out of hand and the contagion of it takes down movie theaters, restaurants and other out of home outlets of entertainment I'm not going to be nice about it. When Americans are crying over it, crying over their job losses, their de-valued homes and all sorts of other stuff and looking for someone to blame I'll say "go look in the mirror."

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