Blockbusters like “Jurassic World” and “Furious 7” powered the movie business to record numbers in 2015. But not everything Hollywood touched turned to gold. There were plenty of “Pans” and “Victor Frankensteins” to splatter red ink around. Here are five things that should keep the studios and filmmakers up at night.
Arthouse cinemas are beginning to feel like ghost towns. Sundance favorites like “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” scored big deals, only to die at the box office. In response, distributors kept their checkbooks closed at the Toronto Film Festival. Plus, there are fewer buyers after Relativity Media went belly up and the Weinstein Co. cut the number of movies
it will release in half.
Incredible Shrinking Stars
Norma Desmond was wrong. It’s not the pictures that got smaller, it’s the stars. Big names like George Clooney, Channing Tatum and Adam Sandler couldn’t save “Tomorrowland,” “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pixels.” Diminishing drawing power threatens that most cherished of Hollywood institutions — the passion project. Hoping to nurture relationships with the likes of Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, studios greenlit such risky projects as “Our Brand Is Crisis” and “By the Sea,” losing millions of dollars in the process.
Netflix and Amazon Fail to Make a Stir
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Streaming services can write big checks and field buzzy TV shows like “House of Cards” and “Transparent,” but they haven’t had a breakout movie. Netflix says “Beasts of No Nation,” a brutal drama about child soldiers, was widely viewed online, but it was barely seen in theaters. The company’s deal with Sandler also raised eyebrows after “Pixels” flopped. Amazon has been more tentative, launching its first theatrical release with Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.” Though the services have revolutionized the way content is watched at home, they haven’t made many revolutionary movies — yet.
R-rated Comedies Are Running Out of Laughs
Amy Schumer emerged as a bona fide star with “Trainwreck,” but most films hoping to ride raunch to box office gold derailed. “Vacation,” “Ted 2” and “The Night Before” left audiences cold,
and even well-reviewed “Spy” fell short of previous Melissa McCarthy efforts such as “The Heat” and “Identity Thief.” Nothing matched the success of 2014 smashes like “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbors,” and some studio executives fret that gross-out gags aren’t delivering belly laughs.
Feast or Famine
The hits were big, but so were the flops. For the first time, at least five films this year will top $1 billion globally. But even as movies like “Jurassic World” mint money, misses like “Pan” are leading to nine-figure writedowns. Fall was weighed down by adult dramas that cannibalized one another, leaving the likes of “The Walk” and “Steve Jobs” to wither. The year had two of the 10 best openings in history with “Jurassic World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but also suffered four of the worst wide-release debuts ever with “Burnt,” “Victor Frankenstein,” “Jem and the Holograms” and “Rock the Kasbah.” Not every record is worth breaking.