Summer Sweat: Hollywood Braces for Possible Worst Box Office in Decade

Walt Disney Pictures

Hollywood may experience one of the worst slumps at the box office in the last decade this summer as Americans grow tired of the seemingly endless number of sequels and big-budget tentpoles churned out by the film industry.

Multiple reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Hollywood Reporter show box office revenues are on track to decline by five percent this summer season when compared with last year, and could drop by as much as ten percent.

In real dollars, that could calculate out to a net loss of $450 million for Hollywood’s film industry, with summer earnings for movies expected at about $4 billion, which would make box office performance during this year’s summer season the worst in at least ten years.

The summer season kicked off with a bang with the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5. The ensemble superhero sequel starring Chris Pratt, Kurt Russell, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper opened to a robust $145 million in its domestic debut, and is expected to top the box office in its second frame with an estimated $60 million haul. The James Gunn-directed film has already crossed the $500 million mark in international sales.

But the second weekend of summer hints at more trouble to come, as Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s pricey tentpole King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is set to debut to around $25 million in its opening weekend, a disastrous projection when compared with its reported $175 million budget, before marketing costs.

But the real test will come later this summer, when Paramount trots out Transformers: The Last Knight and Disney releases Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, both of which represent the fifth entries in their respective, decade-long franchises.

Other key tests will include the long-awaited sequel Alien: Covenant, War for the Planet of the Apes, and the third reboot of the Spiderman franchise, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Of course, Americans’ sequel fatigue also comes at a time when there are more programs available to watch on demand and in the comfort of one’s home than one could ever hope to watch in a lifetime. These options include Emmy-winning hits like Game of Thrones and newly created cult classics like Netflix’s Stranger Things and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Studios are looking to avoid a repeat of last summer’s uneven season, which saw numerous major releases — including Independence Day 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The BFG, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, The Legend of Tarzan, and Warcraft — either underwhelm or else outright bomb at the box office.

There appear to be at least a couple of bright spots this summer, as the animated family film Despicable Me 3 and Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama Dunkirk are expected to perform well for Universal and Warner Bros., respectively.

But some executives are already blaming the upcoming season’s over-saturation with sequels for the projected decline in box office.

“Some of the tent poles are just not as strong this year,” 20th Century Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson told the Times. “Pirates of the Caribbean? It’s the fifth one. Transformers? It’s the fifth one.”



John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.


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