By Mark Bell | July 22, 2014

Welcome to Going Bionic, #224. Today we’re discussing the epically shitty summer box office of 2014. This summer’s box office is off by 20% from 2013, and this Fourth of July weekend was the worst since 1999, and when you account for inflation, it’s been the worst since 1987, when Dragnet polluted the silver screen. So today we’re going to examine just bad this summer box office has been, discuss reasons why, and look at how such bad news for Hollywood could be good news for you. Without further ado, here’s a look into our summer so far.

How The Fourth of July Weekend Screwed the Summer
How bad is this summer? Consider the following facts:

1)  The Fourth of July Weekend was down 45% from last year, which is quite a significant loss. In fact, losing 45% over the summer’s biggest weekend doesn’t just get a few executives yelled at by studio toppers, it gets entire divisions fired; it doesn’t just get theater chains mad about their lack of income, it gets them to demand a larger cut of the fall releases. Losing this big also gets studio accountants to shrink future budgets, because after all, shrinkage at the box office usually always results in shrinkage of future budgets.

2)  While it’s rather difficult for a film to make less than $10 million at the box office, when it’s released on over 3,000 screens, this Fourth of July Weekend spawned not one, but two releases that both accomplished the dubious feat. Earth to Echo only made $8,364,658 on 3,230 screens, which is an anemic $2,590 per screen average, while Deliver Us From Evil could only scare up $9,740,471 on 3,049 screens, which is a $3,195 per screen average.

Other Signs of the Box Office Apocalypse
1)  Transformers: Age of Extinction, is the biggest summer release, with $227 million. That’s a far cry from last summer, when Iron Man 3 rocketed to $409,013,994. Thus, assuming Transformers will top out under $250 million at the domestic box office, this year’s biggest summer hit could make at least $109 million less then last year’s Iron Man 3.

2)  Thanks to Dawn of The Planet of the Apes, Fox just became the first studio to hit $1 billion box office sales for 2014. However, this year is the slowest gallop to a billion dollar box office for any studio, since Disney needed this long to hit $1 billion, way back in 2006.

How Smaller Summer Budgets Soften the Blow
The only good news for studios this summer is that the budgets of the films released are noticeably smaller than previous years. For example, Tammy was budgeted at only $20 million, while Earth to Echo cost $13 million. Thus, studios may be making a lot less this summer, but they’re spending less too.

What’s the Story With the Non-Original Stories?
One key element that has been curiously void from many of this year’s summer releases is a good story. Studios are spending less money on original stories and more on sequel after painful sequel. Thus, while some summer sequels like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, are noticeably well done, most others have failed to capture the imagination of the masses.

What All Of This Means For You
As the major studios continue to forward the trend of making films on smaller budgets, they will inevitably give a look to more up-and-comer writer/director/producers.

Simply put, newcomers to the studio world, (i.e. seasoned indie filmmakers), cost less money. Thus, with box office totals trending downward, studios should be looking to hire more reasonably priced filmmakers to make their more reasonably priced films. Of course, studios will never give up working with their stable of A-list stars, but working with you just may be in their future plans.

On that note, it’s time for me to fly. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal

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