Box Office Suffers Worst Decline In Three Decades

Box Office Suffers Worst Decline In Three Decades

The Hollywood Reporter writes that Summer 2014 is shaping up to be the worst in 8 years thanks to the worst year-over-year decline in three decades. With only 6 weeks of summer remaining and middling titles like “Hercules,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Lucy,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” in the warm-up box, there is little hope for a rebound between now and Labor Day.

The season is expected to finish down 15 to 20 percent compared with 2013, the worst year-over-year decline in three decades, and revenue will struggle to crack $4 billion, which hasn’t happened in eight years. As a result, analysts predict that the full year is facing a deficit of 4 to 5 percent.

Speaking to THR, Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian is the only one adding a fresh insight that hasn’t already been tilled over and over again in numerous other reports on the sagging box office (including my own).  

“Moviegoing begets moviegoing, and we have lost our momentum,” he says. “People aren’t seeing trailers and marketing materials.”

The reasons for this are numerous: The lack of a Pixar title, television offering summer event series as opposed to the usual reruns, technology like Netflix offering customers thousands of viewing titles for a full month for what amounts to less than the price of an average movie ticket… Unfortunately, those all sound like problems that are now systemic and can’t be overcome with brands backed by CGI backed by $200 million in advertising.  

This is the hopeful refrain we hear from Hollywood again and again, but it is starting to sound a little shrill:

Still, many believe summer 2015 will restore order with a lineup that includes Avengers: Age of Ultron, Minions and Jurassic World. “I think it’s cyclical,” says X-Men producer Simon Kinberg. “Next summer will be the biggest box-office summer in history, and nobody will be worrying about the business.”

This summer offered “Spider-Man,” “Transformers,” “X-Men,” “Godzilla” and “Planet of the Apes.” On paper those are titles that look every bit the sure thing as another “Avengers” or “Jurassic Park.”  

Another piece of Hollywood Happy Talk to keep in perspective is the news about the ever-expanding international box office. The truth is that this is the film business trying to make up for collapsing DVD sales. And they are treading water.

The entire movie industry has been whittled down to the all-in bet of $200 million blockbusters backed by another $200 million in promotion. When those fail or under-perform (as they have this summer), the Jenga tower comes crashing down.

If you look at past record box office years, it was obvious that those years were only one or two blockbusters (a “Dark Knight,” a “Hunger Games”)  away from a disappointing year, or a calamity.

And that’s what happened in 2014.

Bad films, partisan politics, nihilism, bland actors… The film business alienated everyone until all it had left was fickle young boys who demand more and more expensive wows. Now those fickle young boys have found something shinier and what Hollywood has left of its soul is being sold on the cheap to Chinese tyrants.


Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC