Despite some surprising blockbuster hits, the summer box-office numbers still have the movie studios concerned.
Even though there were not the kind of poor showings the likes of those occurring last year, including “The Lone Ranger,” “White House Down,” “After Earth,” and “R.I.P.D,” which stunned the industry by tanking upon release, the summer season and possibly the entire year are likely to be major disappointments for the entertainment business revenue-wise.
Rather than totally bombing out at the box office, the 2014 crop of summer films seems to be sharing in a general malaise. Even those movies considered to be winners failed to solidly hit the target. Films such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Maleficent,” “Godzilla,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” managed to garner some sizable numbers but none exceeded the $300 million mark like “Iron Man 3” and “ Despicable Me 2” succeeded in doing last year. Instead they currently trail below the $250 million tally.
Studios traditionally schedule films that are considered to be more unpredictable in terms of box-office performance for the latter part of the summer season, typically in August. This year, though, summer’s last month brought some needed optimism to the entertainment business with Marvel/Disney releasing the highly successful “Guardians of the Galaxy” followed by the unexpected performance of the remake of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” both movies breaking August records.
Still, other releases such as “Let's Be Cops,” “The Expendables 3,” and “The Giver” reverted back to the previous pattern of summer doldrums, reintroducing the pain felt back in July by studio execs. During this all-important month, the domestic box office did not reach the $1 billion, a level so low it had not occurred in more than a decade.
Although June movies took in a bit more than $1 billion, the financial score was still 16 percent lower than last year.
Notwithstanding the temporary boost from “Guardians” and “Turtles,” the summer box-office numbers will still be significantly down from the previous year. Based on July’s figures, the summer seemed to have taken a 20 percent decline from last year. Following the high-octane August start, however, the drop has now been reduced to about 15 percent.
The total year-to-year box office is off by 5 percent from last year, and Hollywood insiders are hoping that some of the to-be-released sequels, including “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” will be able to reduce the yearly deficit and maybe even salvage the annual total.
In the meantime, entertainment firms are touting the foreign box-office performance, particularly the showing of China. Studio executives could not help but take note of the fact that the aforementioned fourth installment of the “Transformers” saga actually brought in more from China than it did from the U.S.
The cinematic handwriting is on the wall. The longstanding assumption that the American box office is the biggest in the world will no longer be the case in the near future, which explains all of the attention that Hollywood studios have been lavishing on Chinese government-controlled entities.
Nevertheless, power players in the entertainment industry instinctively know that increased revenues in China are not the long-term solution for the movie business. There are two major concerns that are looming like storm clouds over Hollywood, since it is now an accepted notion that China will inevitably become the number one movie market in the world.
First, Hollywood companies receive a smaller cut of the money in China dealings, due to the large percentages that are taken by Chinese firms involved in distribution and exhibition.
Second, the trend in China is to emulate American studios and ultimately replace them with movie studios of the country’s own, with content controlled by the central authorities in Beijing.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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