This past summer the major movie studios had to sit by and watch as a series of ill-conceived sequels, reboots, and remakes seriously underperformed at the box office.
Even though some of the more promising reboots, including the gender-swapped “Ghostbusters” and the CGI 3D focused “Ben-Hur,” ended up being a disappointment to the bottom line, it was the performance of sequels that really stung Hollywood executives, so much so that future studio release strategies may take a different course.
During the summer of 2016, fourteen sequels were released, but only 3 of them brought in more revenue than their original predecessors.
Every big studio in Hollywood seems to have experienced an unforeseen dud in the uneven summer season.
The movie industry has been obsessed with establishing sequel-rich franchises, particularly those with superhero labels.
Most decision makers in the entertainment industry dwell in a universe of insecurity, one in which sequels are the safer bet, both monetarily and in popularity.
The big sequels of the past summer, “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” turned out to be major letdowns in terms of business measures.
Paramount delivered the “Ninja Turtles” sequel; this is the same studio that also teamed up with MGM to release the “Ben-Hur” reboot. Some analysts believe that Paramount could show as much as a staggering $350 million loss this year.
Another film with dismal box-office numbers that helped to put the brakes on the summer season was the sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Unfortunately, the movie opened as news reports hit the media concerning domestic abuse allegations against lead actor Johnny Depp. The movie ended up having a shortfall of $740 million less than the original movie released six years earlier.
The female-comprised team of the “Ghostbusters” reboot failed to perform well enough at the box office for the studio to approve a sequel.
In contrast, despite “Star Trek Beyond” having mediocre numbers, Paramount nonetheless insisted it would go forward with plans for another “Star Trek” sequel in the future.
And even though the legendary Steven Spielberg sat in the director’s chair for the popular children's book adaptation “The BFG,” the film was barely able to recoup its $140 million production budget.
Part of the summer box-office blues may have something to do with a transformed release schedule, one in which big-budget summer-oriented films are unveiled at any time of the year.
Superhero genre offerings, such as “Deadpool” and “Batman and Superman,” were released respectively in February and March of 2016.
Despite film offerings that did not live up to the publicity they were afforded, the 2016 summer box-office levels seem to closely resemble those of last year. The problem is that Hollywood executives were expecting a healthy increase in ticket grosses.
Although theater owners have provided the public with innovative movie-going experiences, including such things as premium seating and cinema dining, the entertainment business as a whole is being heavily impacted by technological breakthroughs.
The on-demand revolution, with long and short content available at the touch of a smart device screen, is providing stiff competition for traditional motion pictures.
In addition, the advent of social media is causing a geometric acceleration of what used to be simple “word of mouth.” In fact, today’s film consumers, via social media websites, are able to communicate reactions to newly released movies while actually viewing films in real time.
Hollywood decision makers, who determine which movie projects are green-lighted and which are not, would be well-served if they simply went back to the basics of the art of storytelling.
The most successful movies in the history of film generally share the great story components found in time-honored literature, those being, among others, the following: plots contain clear central premises, central characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional, protagonists are on quests, antagonists attempt to foil protagonists plans, and conflict and resolution play out in a palpable rhythm.
These essential great story elements are alive and well in the films that are presently paying Hollywood's bills.
The top three films of the 2016 summer account for more than 25 percent of the total box office, the three movies being Disney's “Finding Dory,” Disney’s “Captain America: Civil War,” and Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets,” all exhibiting storytelling at its best.
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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