An alternate theory of blockbuster box-office drop-offs

John Nolte’s mention of the alarming Week Two drop-offs in box-office receipts for the big blockbuster films this summer is interesting.  I had a sense that it was particularly bad this year, even with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a surprisingly big hit that got almost universally good reviews.

Perhaps part of this year’s Week Two disappointment is specific to some of the other movies.  The “Spider-Man” sequel was an iffy film that ran far too long, and probably didn’t fill anyone with even the vaguest desire to see it again.  (I remember eagerly trotting back into theaters to see the first two Raimi Spider-Man movies a second time.)  “Godzilla,” which I liked very much, has a slow first half that might discourage repeat business of the “you gotta see this!” variety, where people who already saw the film drag their friends along.  Likewise with “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which drags in the middle, and is somewhat inaccessible for people who aren’t fans of the characters.

But I can’t help thinking the most important factor is the ridiculously high cost of movie tickets, which have made these films into a boutique experience that many people can’t afford.  That means a very high percentage of the total potential audience hits the theater on opening weekend for a big event film, then goes to see something else the following weekend.  By Week Two, the people who couldn’t shell out astronomical amounts of money for tickets – especially the gimmick 3D and IMAX tickets – are probably thinking they can just wait for a video release.  It costs less to buy a movie on Blu-Ray in October, and have it forever, than it does to see it in theaters in May… especially if you’re talking about a family, not just a couple on a date.

Chasing those inflated ticket dollars has led studios to invest ridiculous amounts of marketing and production money in these films, which might also be hurting business with the potential Week Two crowd – they’ve already seen plenty of marketing for upcoming July and August blockbusters, and if they figure they can only afford one or two movies all summer, they’ve got to make their selections carefully.

Who among the Sainted Middle Class can afford to plunk down thirty or forty bucks for tickets and snacks to see a movie they’re only mildly curious about?

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