The film business is off to a rocky start this summer as Hollywood box office revenue declined ten percent from 2016 through the first three weeks of the season after back-to-back weekends of big-budget flops.
Alien: Covenant became the latest big-budget disappointment this weekend after opening with a domestic total of $36 million, off from analysts’ projections of around $40 million and the previous debuts of 2012’s Prometheus ($51 million) and 2004’s Alien vs. Predator ($38 million).
While the Ridley Scott-directed sequel in the long-running sci-fi horror franchise eked out a first-place finish at the box office, Twentieth Century Fox reportedly spent $100 million on the film and likely much more on marketing, meaning the film will have to perform exceptionally well overseas if it is to make a profit.
The Michael Fassbender-starring film has pulled in $117 million in global receipts thus far, according to Box Office Mojo. It launches in China in mid-June.
Alien‘s lukewarm reception follows last weekend’s disastrous rollout of Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which launched to $14.7 million domestically against a reported production budget of $175 million, before marketing costs.
Warners and Village Roadshow are seemingly looking at a writedown in the tens of millions as the Charlie Hunnam-Jude Law fantasy action flick collected an additional $6.85 million in in its second weekend to bring its global tally to just $97 million, far behind what the film will need to earn overseas to break even.
With those two big-budget misfires and a few other other underperformers — including the Amy Schumer-Goldie Hawn kidnap caper Snatched (which dropped 61 percent in its second weekend for a cumulative domestic total of $32.7 million against a $42 million budget) and the YA sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul — this year’s box office revenue is down ten percent through the first three weeks of summer, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which cited data from industry tracker comScore. The numbers are down 20 percent when compared with the summer of 2015.
This year’s season kicked off with a promising bang on May 5, as Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 debuted to $145 million domestically on the way to its current global tally of $733 million through its first three weeks of release.
But now the real test begins as a number of big-budget sequels and reboots head to theaters over the next few weeks, beginning with this weekend’s rollout of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth installment in the long-running franchise featuring star Johnny Depp, and a big-screen R-rated adaptation of the TV show Baywatch, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Other notable sequels set to debut this summer include Transformers: The Last Knight, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The bleak box office news comes as a battle for the future of the business is being waged at the industry’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France this week.
The festival announced that beginning next year, films submitted for inclusion in the program must screen at movie theaters ahead of their festival debut. The rule was a direct shot at Netflix, which has two titles in competition at this year’s festival, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, neither of which received a theatrical release.
Director Pedro Almodovar, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, defended the new rule at the opening of this year’s festival, telling reporters that films must be seen on a big screen to be appreciated. Almodovar’s fellow juror, actor Will Smith, defended Netflix in the same press conference, telling reporters that his family regularly watches the streaming service. The actor’s upcoming film Bright, directed by David Ayer, will premiere exclusively on Netflix later this year.
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