Summer Movie Malaise — Is it curable?


This summer cinema season has seen enough epic flops to cause Hollywood to rethink how it does business.

Or at least, it’s caused The Hollywood Reporter to say Hollywood is rethinking its business model.

“White House Down” lost its shirt by being the second movie on the same subject in less than six months, something Sony knew before starting production.

“The Lone Ranger” kept getting postponed over budget issues. Disney greenlit it, and Jerry Bruckheimer still got his dime $250 million, for a Western? THR suggests budget creep was the cause of that. A $150-180 million write-off, Disney’s biggest flop — maybe ever.

A deluge of animated films, none of them true stand-outs. “Epic” underperformed, “Monsters University underwhelmed and “Turbo” tanked. Only “Despicable Me 2” seemed to live up to expectations. “The Smurfs 2” and “Planes” from Disney (plainly a Pixar production in all but name) are yet to come. Anybody have great expectations for those?

THR suggests that “original” scripts — not adaptations of hit comics or sequels or lingering franchises — will suffer and get that extra scrutiny and no green light if they cost over $125 million. That’s owing to “Pacific Rim,” which will have to make most of its money around the Pacific Rim.

We’ve reached comic book picture saturation — but only “R.I.P.D.” truly failed, thus far. An amusing end for “Iron Man,” a middling “Man of Steel,” yet another “Wolverine” (the titles show a “Spider-Man” lack of imagination), they make their money in three weeks and are forgotten by one and all after that. Maybe the genre hasn’t run its course, but the end, when it comes, will be sudden and catastrophic. Hollywood is making too many comic book movies, by far.

The credo could be, as THR suggests, “Make better movies,” “make more movies aimed at women,” and I’d add release a scattering of pictures that will reach an older audience, which abandons the cinema most summers as Not Safe for Seniors. The gambles are smaller with cheaper fare and some of those cheap pictures — from “Mud” and “Still Mine” to Kevin Hart’s concert pic to “The Way, Way Back” and perhaps “The To Do List” will pay off. For every five “Girl Most Likely” failures, a single hit can offset that on the balance sheets.

The only true “small change” hits this summer, truthfully, have been “The Purge” and Kevin Hart’s “Let Me Explain.” Only “Mud,” a late spring film, joins in the cost-under-$10, made more than $20 list.

Younger viewers have abandoned TV en masse, consuming media on notebooks, phones and soon Google Glass. If theaters are to survive in any form beyond the next decade, the product is going to have to cater to more than just horror, comic book fanboy and the occasional date picture comedy audience.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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