Summer Box Office Shrinks, But So Do the Flops

The Lone Ranger

The hits have been smaller, but so have the flops.

The summer box office is down 20%, but most of the films that have hit theaters over the last three months have a good chance of recouping their production budgets while still in theaters.

“We really haven’t had an out and out misfire yet,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

There’s been nary an “After Earth,” a “White House Down” or “The Lone Ranger” to harsh Hollywood’s mellow this summer. To say nothing of “R.I.P.D,” the D.O.A. science-fiction comedy that debuted nearly a year ago to the day, recouping only $78 million of its $130 million production costs plus whatever else it took to market this “Ghostbusters” retread.

Yes, there have been turkeys. “Blended” ($93.7 million on a $40 million budget) and “A Million Ways to Die in the West” ($82.2 million on a $40 million budget) will likely stay in the red, and the $15 million debut for this weekend’s “Sex Tape” doesn’t scream “sequel!,” but these are relatively cost-efficient misfires. They aren’t likely to produce $200 million write downs the way that realizing Johnny Depp’s ambition to wear a bird on his head did.

Some films treated like flops, were in fact hits, as in the case of “Tammy,” which has netted $71.2 million so far, a healthy return on a $20 million production. Others, such as “Edge of Tomorrow” ($352.6 million on a $178 million budget) won’t break even, but have stemmed the bleeding with help from foreign crowds.  Of course, the movie business may have dodged a bomb when “Jupiter Ascending” vacated the summer and took its frosty buzz to next year, allowing to Channing Tatum to get credit for “22 Jump Street” instead of getting questioned for donning Spock ears.

So why is the box office still down 6.1%, year -to-date? The reason may be that there are fewer mid-level hits such as “The Conjuring” and “We’re the Millers,” not just the lack of a global blockbuster on the scale of last summer’s “Iron Man 3.” While none of this year’s crop of tentpole releases looks positioned to cross $300 million stateside, not enough films will top out at between $90 million to $120 million domestically.

“The studios are just taking big swings and not producing enough middle of the road efforts,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com. “Not every movie has to make a billion dollars worldwide. A slate needs diversity.”

Investors may be pleased that studios have been shielded from the kind of losses that weigh down an earnings report, but exhibitors can’t be happy.

“The profit margins are terrific news for studios, but for the exhibitors, they just want consistently great product that brings people into theaters irrespective of profitability,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.

Theaters live and die on foot traffic and popcorn and soda sales. It’s a safe bet that some of the people who caught “White House Down” in theaters last summer, bought a Coke.

 

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  1. Sandy Hunter says:

    Melissa McCarthy gets the last laugh. Her movie was just a cute little picture that allowed us to escape the world’s continuing bad news. That’s why we middle age and senior Americans go to the movies! Not only teenagers go to the movies!

  2. David says:

    It’s official, Hollywood has exhausted the superhero. There’s too many. Time to find something new.

  3. harry georgatos says:

    Time to release John Woo’s 3&1/2 hour directors cut of Mission:Impossible 2. The world has waited long enough. Enough is enough and have the decency of releasing it.

  4. nerdrage says:

    Yeah I’m not setting foot out of my house because of those Hispanic gangs of refugee children!

    …getting back to reality, there hasn’t been anything worth bothering with in the theaters so far. Still waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to change that.

  5. feingarten says:

    question re:Tammy
    does that figure include the cost of marketing and McCarthy’s salary? This will be of paramount importance in determining rather it’s ultimately considered a hit.

  6. “The studios are just taking big swings and not producing enough middle of the road efforts,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com. “Not every movie has to make a billion dollars worldwide. A slate needs diversity.”

    Well first off. There is no diversity. Just a bunch of movies devoid of reality and mental escape. Second, unless they start dubbing these films in spanish, more than half the market will still be missed.

  7. charles kimmel says:

    I AGREE WITH YOU , BUT I THINK NOW IS THE TIME TO LOOK AFTER ARE OWN SELF, OR IN GROUPS,AFTER ALL THIS IS THE SAME GOVERMENT THAT TOLD US TO DUCK AND COVER , USE DUCT TAPE FOR BIO ATTACK,AND FOR NAVY MEN TO SPREAD BLACK INK FOR SHARK ATTACK, AND NOW PEOPLE GET RIDES FROM ACROSS THE BOARDER. I ALWAYS GREW UP TO BELIEVE DAVY CROCKETT AND THE MEN AT THE ALAMO TO BE HEROS.LETS SEE HOW THE GOVERMENT REWRITES HISTORY AGAIN.

  8. srvwp2013 says:

    It is just like Yogi said: “If fans don’t wanna come out to the ballpark, no one can stop ’em.” The movies are a concept and a product of a by-gone era. Civilization, society, culture, life itself — moves — one way or another if not forward. The movie industry, if not the entire entertainment industry, has receded into its grave. There is a reason why PAST entertainment history is largely referred to in terms of its “Golden Ages.” For anyone to say that we are in the “Golden Age” of anything now in the early 21st Century is ludicrous. Civilization is struggling with life itself on a dying planet. No one is wasting their life, their time or their money “going to the movies.”

    • jedi77 says:

      Actually, this current point in time is often reffered to as a new “golden age of television”. Or rather perhaps, the period from 2000 til 2012 was. But still, there are golden ages out there.

    • Scott says:

      May I disagree with you. This certainly is a Golden Age — of costly cinematic cow pies.

  9. Heyo says:

    I really don’t get it. This summer has been one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Usually I only enjoy two movies at most for the entire summer, but I’ve enjoyed at least four, maybe five.

    I think the reason why the BO is down is because there’s no mega blockbuster to go see. If there was even one movie that crossed $300 million here in the States, the story would be different.

    Hell, it looks like it might be different next year. Avengers Age of Ultron is going to be HUGE.

  10. KAG505 says:

    Unfortunately, Hollywood has forgotten HOW to make movies. Instead of relying on a sensible plot, character development, good steady camera work and careful editing they have hedged their bets on sex, nudity, gunfire, car chases, car explosions, car accidents and an overabundance of CGI with the actors filling in time between the next car chase, etc. with their lines. Camera work and editing are not supposed to be the focal point of the film but the films I have seen lately indicate that the audience is supposed to be wowed by how many times the camera can shake or circle the actors, leaving the plot on the cutting room floor.

    • Kell Anna says:

      Has Hollywood every made movies without sex, nudity, gunfire, car chases or explosions? They’ve been making the same movies for decades. Now their remaking the same movies. The indies turn out some good product though.

    • Kevin says:

      Generic platitudes about sex and violence have nothing at all to do with the post-production process or cinematography. Even remotely.

      • ThomT says:

        While generic platitudes about sex and violence may well have nothing to do with post-production processes or cinematography they do have much to do about what audiences are willing to pay to see. Very few films become blockbusters because of the post-production process or cinematography (although they certainly are valuable to the process) – at least not in the eye of the ticket buyer. Personally I’m tired of seeing the same movie over and over.

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