Magazine article Variety

No Day at the Beach for Summer Box Office

Magazine article Variety

No Day at the Beach for Summer Box Office

Article excerpt

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BLOCKBUSTERS GONE?

That's the question on Hollywood's lips as the summer box office pants its way past midpoint. With less than two months to go, this season's crop of tentpole films look shaky, despite a gorilla-sized $73 million opening weekend for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

Overall, there have been more raunchy comedies and fewer family films - and, in fact, fewer tentpoles packed the season vs. last year. China's box office is surging, while the domestic market shrinks. And the endless stream of sequels and reboots has failed to lure away crowds from the World Cup, barbecues and the beach.

Box office revenue from the first week of May through the most recent weekend is down nearly 20%, as "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2" failed to match the massive grosses of such 2013 popcorn films as "Iron Man 3," "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University." This summer almost certainly will fall short of last year's record-breaking $4.76 billion haul.

"Product is a big part of the equation," said Jeffrey Logsdon, an analyst with Hudson Square Research. "When the product's not there, you don't see the big audiences."

Films have been opening big, but flaming out quickly, with pictures such as the "Spider-Man" sequel and "Godzilla" debuting to nearly $100 million, then dropping more than 60% in their second weekends. Both have struggled to clear $200 million domestically. The lack of stickiness is evident across the digital watercooler.

"As the box office has fallen, social media has had a strong correlation," said Ben Carlson, prexy of social-media tracking service Fizziology. "There's been less social engagement for a lot of these films."

leaving a huge void in the calendar, two major movies vacated the summer season: Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur," due to production delays, and "Fast & Furious 7," owing to the death of star Paul Walker.

The loss of "Good Dinosaur" deprived the season of a major family film in a year packed with R-rated comedies. Some of these laffers, such as "Neighbors" and "22 Jump Street," were successes, but a dearth of films that appealed to children, save for "Maleficent," "How to TYain jPPi Your Dragon 2" and "Planes: R^^ Fire & Rescue," has robbed ^ the B.O. of some of its demographic dimensionality.

"It's the vagaries of production schedules," said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Assn, of Theatre Owners. "Fast year, we had too many family films: this year there are too few. …

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