Hollywood has a problem.
This isn’t a new development. The Hollywood film industry always seems to be doing something wrong, and it’s often multiple issues at once. With that being said, the problem I am talking about deals with the quality of films being put out and the hard work (or lack thereof) that goes into developing them.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that lately Hollywood has had a bit of a reliance on sequels, franchises and reboots. The major studios have discovered that if they make a movie that capitalizes on audiences’ cravings for nostalgia, they can make a ton of money. However, this has ultimately led to lazy attempts to recreate the past and a fear about putting too much money into anything new.
I'm not inherently against franchises and sequels. Some of my favorite movies are entries in giant franchises. What I am against, however, is the tendency of studios to rely on big budget franchises for a majority of their profits, instead of exploring new, original ideas.
This summer, however, audiences seemed to make their voices heard. This summer movie season was chock-full of bad reboots and unnecessary sequels. For the most part, it wasn’t a great summer to go to the movies. So how did audiences respond? They rejected many of the bad films that were playing by simply not going to see them.
Before I get too deep into this, it is worth noting that making any movie is a difficult task, and making a good movie is monumental. None of the gripes I have are with the people doing the day-to-day production work on a movie, it’s the writers and executives that are providing them with bad movies to make. It’s hard to make a good product when the materials you’re given are rotten.
This year has seen an unexpected decrease in overall theater attendance. At the beginning of the year, it seemed as if 2019 films were sure to outgross record-breaking 2018 films at the box office. Instead, overall attendance is down 5 percent, which might not seem like a lot until you consider that this year did bring “Avengers: Endgame,” which has become the highest grossing film of all time. There were plenty of other large blockbusters this summer that should’ve had great success, but the overall lack of quality combined with audiences growing tired of the same franchises stopped the behemoths in their tracks.
One behemoth in particular comes in the form of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” This latest addition to the “Godzilla” film pantheon brought plenty of action and monsters for viewers to enjoy, but the film still only scored a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to that, it also underperformed at the domestic box office.
“King of the Monsters” was the third film in Warner Brothers’ “Monsterverse” franchise, with its two predecessors being “Godzilla” (2014) and “Kong: Skull Island” (2017).The latest “Godzilla” sequel had been predicted to open to between $55 and $65 million in its first weekend, which was concerning as 2014’s “Godzilla” had opened to $93 million. The new monster flick ended up coming up shy even to those numbers, as it opened to a mere $47 million.
“Godzilla” isn’t the only series to see franchise lows at the box office either. “Men in Black: International” only grossed a total of $79 million domestically, $30 million of which was in its opening weekend. That’s far and away the least successful “Men in Black” film to date, as it’s $100 million behind the next-lowest entry, 2012’s “MIB 3.”
Numerous other reboots and sequels throughout the year saw drastically small box office performances as well. Films such as “Child’s Play,” “Shaft” and “Hellboy” barely managed to get off the ground, but the biggest failure of the summer was undoubtedly the last film from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” series, “Dark Phoenix.”
The “X-Men” are Fox’s only major comic book franchise. Prior to “Dark Phoenix,” the lowest grossing of which was 2013’s “The Wolverine,” which opened to $53 million and saw a total domestic gross of $132 million. That film wasn't considered to be a big hit by any standards, and it's underperformance is likely due to audiences not being satisfied with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” “Dark Phoenix” wasn’t even in that ballpark. In fact, it didn’t even come close to the $100 million mark. It opened with an astonishingly low $32 million, and only managed to bring in $65 million on a $200 million budget, making it the very definition of a box office bomb.
20th Century Fox was recently purchased by Disney, who naturally had a lot of hope for the studio. After the complete failure of “Dark Phoenix,” Disney appears to be entirely reorganizing their new Fox division, even going as far to strip all their comic book characters from Fox and hand them over to Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige.
This summer was not great for the film industry. It wasn’t very profitable for the studios and audiences weren’t provided with many great movies to see. It was a lose-lose. To make matters worse for the studios, audiences are increasingly turning to streaming services such as Netflix for their entertainment instead of going out to the theater.
The only real successes of the summer all came from Disney, who continues to inch closer to a monopoly of the industry. Disney is also relying on their franchises, but they’re putting out entertaining content with them. The other major studios, such as Universal and Warner Bros., aren’t nearly as consistent. They need to put the time and effort into making sure the movies they're producing are quality, instead of just throwing old franchises at the wall over and over again. It is one-of-a-kind, original content that often gets people talking the most, and big studios need to realize that.
If the major Hollywood studios aren’t able to step out of the shell of these old franchises, their box office numbers are going to continue to go down. And then soon enough, they’ll probably end up getting purchased by Disney too.