A record breaking May at the Movies — and not a good record

ImageSome weeks back a few friends asked me about the movies I was most looking forward to this summer.

And I found that a head-scratcher. The staggering list of sequels, reboots, desultory formula comedies and the like had me giving up on this summer in April.

A new “Captain America”? Meh. Another “Godzilla”? Why? Middling animation (“Legends of Oz,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2”), another “Spider-Man,” “Superman vs. Batman”? “More “X-Men”? OK, but really, enough already. Guardians of the Galaxy”? Who green lights this drivel?

May’s numbers at the box office tend to bear this out. Several films opened big and then took a dive as word of mouth on their “Been there, seen this” plots, characters, etc., got around. Worst May since 2010, and 2010 can be seen as more of a fluke.

As a movie lover, I worry at the long-term trends. Demographics drive those, and as America’s teens-to-20somethings age thin out as a group, moviegoing drops. When moviegoing drops ahead of that curve, people are breaking the habit of going to the movies.

It’s great when Hollywood suddenly discovers it needs to make more films appealing to Christians, women, older viewers who have given up the movies, for the most part, etc. But there’s no learning out there. Will the system build on the Christian audience gains it saw this spring? Every summer needs that one film over-50s will buy into. Is that “Chef” this year, or “Belle”? Why only one film for that audience?

There are more films being released every week than in years past — indie dramas, thrillers, horror pictures,documentaries and comedies. I see 4-6 of these per week. Few leave an impression, none break through at the box office.

These megabudget comic book adaptations travel well, another big reason they’re an outsized presence at the US box office. They do well in China and India and Australia and Finland. But fatigue is setting in, and this summer could make all of 2014 a major blow to the long term box office and make the movies another “fabulous invalid,” an art and entertainment for the few and fewer.

We all lose if that happens.

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