To paraphrase Bill Clinton: It’s the movies, stupid. Much has been made in recent days over the sagging ticket sales at the summer box office. The numbers are stark: Compared to last year at this time, box office is down $106 million. To put it in even more perspective: Memorial Day weekend attendance — the traditional summer kick-off — was the worst since 1993. So what’s going on? Have audiences had enough of the same remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and TV series-turned-movies? Well, not exactly, despite what some agents clearly want you to think.
Nope, the reason for the summer box office dip has to do solely with the movies. And not their quality mind you — we doubt anyone would argue for the artistic merits of X-Men Origins: Wolverine or Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, two of the bigger pre-July hits from 2009. Nope, this year’s crop of would-be summer blockbusters have been too narrow in their scope. Think about it: With the exception of Iron Man 2 and now The Karate Kid have there actually been any movies that scream four quadrant (men, women, over/under 25) hits?
Sex and the City 2 was niche to women only — a reported 90 percent of the opening weekend audience was female. The disappointing opening for The A-Team can be attributed to its men-only ad campaign — this despite the gratuitous and shirtless Bradley Cooper shots. While the Shrek series used to be Pixar-like in its ability to cross ages and demographics, Shrek Forever After has clearly played like a kids’ movie. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is, like The A-Team for boys only. And Robin Hood — well, outside of people who like boring, where was the crossover audience there?
Compare this to last summer when Star Trek, the aforementioned Wolverine, Night at the Museum, The Hangover and The Proposal all opened before July 1 and all wound up being smash hits because of the inclusive nature. Everyone wanted to see those movies, not just their pre-determined niche.
So: It’s the movies, stupid. Something that Hollywood will undoubtedly be reminded of when Toy Story 3 completely annihilates the summer box office this weekend.