Welcome to the 230th edition of Going Bionic. First and foremost, I hope everyone in the USA enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day Weekend. Most of mine was spent on my sister Mona’s boat in Lake Oswego, Oregon, watching my daughters Zoe and Lena bounce around the lake in sheer delight. Then, upon our return to Los Angeles, my wife and I spent our Labor Day taking our girls to Disney’s Frozen Sing-along at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. While the El Capitan is both historical and magical, the Frozen Sing-Along’s “pre-show” was fiercely disappointing. It featured less than one-verse of Let It Go, lip-synched by a lethargic and largely uninspired actress dressed like Elsa. At least the sing-along throughout the film was fun for my girls. I’m sorry to bitch about a kid’s event, but I expected way more from Disney, especially since this event was for the single biggest animated film of all time (Frozen has earned $1.274 billion worldwide).
Now let’s get back to this week’s regularly scheduled topic.
As we wrap up the 2014 summer at the box office, which is down nearly 15% from 2013, here are a handful of observations about this forgettable summer.
2014’s Top 5 Summer Films Made Pennies Compared To 2013
One way to judge how healthy the summer box office will be is to observe the top five films at the box office compare with the top five of the previous year. In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, X-Men: Days of Future Passed Maleficent, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, collectively earned $1.205 billion during the summer. However, the top five summer films from 2013, Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University and Fast and Furious 6, collectively earned $1.558 billion, or $359 million dollars more than 2014. Being up or down ten or twenty million would have been insignificant, but being down $359 million is $78.5 million more than this summer’s highest grossing film – and that my friends, is one hell of a decline.
2014’s Top 5 Summer Films Cost More To Produce Than 2013’s
This year’s top five summer champs collectively cost $930 million to make while 2013’s top five summer releases cost $861 million. Thus, studios spent $69 million more on their top five summer hits in 2014, in order to make $359 million less from 2013. While this summer could be an anomaly, and studios expect the summer of 2015 to be robust, wish
PG-13 Ruled The Summer Of 2014, R-Rated Films Suffered
Of the top 10 summer films in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, X-Men: Days of Future Passed Maleficent, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Amazing Spiderman 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, seven films were PG-13. Maleficent (#3 with $238.7 million) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (#9 with $174 million) were both PG, while the only R-rated film to break the top 10 was 22 Jump Street (#8 at $190.2 million).Thus, nine of the top 10 films this summer were PG-13 or PG, while there were no G-rated pictures to break the top 10 summer films in 2014.
Conversely, the summer of 2013 brought us Monsters University, a G-rated gem that earned $261.9 million, while last summer also registered two R-rated films in the top 10, The Heat fired itself into the #8 spot with $156.5 million, while The Conjuring earned last summer’s #10 spot with $132.2 million.
Original Scripts Are Like VHS Tapes: Gone, Baby, Gone!
It’s a sad state of affairs when this summer’s top ten films were sequels, based on comic books, or remakes. Maleficent, which may be the only one, which may fall slightly outside of those categories, is still based on a character that first appeared in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, way back in 1959! Thus, the one thing studios aren’t doing these days is taking a risk.
What This Summer’s Failure Means For Indie Filmmakers
Major studios tend to take major losses in-stride, as long a pattern of failure doesn’t develop, so don’t expect everything to change overnight because of our disappointing summer at the domestic box-office. Furthermore, as I’ve reported before, several indie film directors are getting opportunities to direct, because studios would rather take a chance on a young, hip up-and-comer who isn’t going to charge the GNP of a small country, rather than have an overpriced director with a solid track record. Sure, track records are good, but in this day and age where audiences could care less who directed a film, studios are opting to save millions of dollars on the helmers they put in the saddle of their biggest tent poles.
So, what’s the bad news? Well, for starters, studios probably won’t be taking risks on films that aren’t highly branded (we all have Marvel to thank for that). By no means am I knocking Marvel. They clearly develop and produce excellent product that captivates the imagination of mass audiences, but in doing so, they have effectively limited the scope of what most studios will choose to produce in the foreseeable future.
Okay, filmmakers. Like always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I hope you have a great week. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.