It’s been a rough year for the Hollywood film industry, even before Sony Pictures’ decision to pull The Interview from its scheduled December 25 release date in the wake of a massive cyberattack.
Box office revenue totaled $10.4 billion in 2014, down 5% from $10.9 billion in revenue in 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times. Industry analysts and power players offered several explanations for the drop.
“This was not the best year for film,” Phil Zacharetti, president and CEO of Phoenix Big Cinemas Management, told the Times. “Every time there was a little excitement for a good, solid, box-office weekend, it just never seemed to appear… I can’t wait for 2014 to be over and 2015 to start.”
While certain films, like the last installment of the Hobbit franchise, Interstellar, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Lego Movie fared well, other high-budgeted films failed dramatically, including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and the remake of Annie, the latter of which was leaked by Sony hackers well in advance of it’s mid-December release date.
Chris Aronson, domestic distribution chief at 20th Century Fox, told the Times that sequels to popular franchises did not deliver as expected this year.
“There’s been a lot of sequels that have underperformed expectations,” Aronson told the paper.
Among those sequels were the aforementioned Night at the Museum, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Penguins of Madagascar, the latest entry in the long-running animated franchise.
Fox actually had a relatively strong year, scoring hits with the films Gone Girl, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore told the Times that people will still get to the theaters to see “good” movies.
“If movies have compelling stories and characters, people turn out,” he told the paper, mentioning Interstellar and Disney’s animated film Big Hero 6 as examples.
Several other factors almost certainly contributed to lackluster box office revenue this year. The World Cup grabbed the moviegoing public’s attention between mid-June and mid-July, and July 4th fell on a Friday this year, hurting traditionally strong holiday weekend movie ticket sales. Additionally, social media reaction to movies now has more of an effect on films’ box office performance, as friends inform others almost in real-time whether or not they should check out a movie, reports the Times.
There were also simply fewer movies released than originally scheduled; actor Paul Walker’s sudden death in a car accident in November, 2013 caused the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise to be moved from the summer to April, 2015.
“This year the industry couldn’t catch a break,” Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the Times.
Still, some analysts are not ready to sound the alarm. Rentrak’s Dergarabedian said in the report that North American box office could reach $11 billion for the first time in 2015 based on the strength of a number of quality films. AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez is similarly optimistic.
“After back-to-back record years in the movie industry in 2012 and 2013, we’re expecting a bounce-back year in 2015,” Lopez told the paper.