If people don’t want to go to the movies, you can’t stop them.
And that’s what happened this summer for a variety of reasons. By the end of this coming holiday weekend, Hollywood’s domestic summer box office will be down a whopping — and historic — 16% from last year.
That’s the worst decline in modern times and the first time since 2006 that midyear movie box office failed to reach $4 billion.
Summer totals will probably limp in around $3.7 billion, which still seems like a fortune to us schlumps who are balking at paying $13 or more for a worn seat on a sticky floor and twice as much for a popcorn and drink.
Summer attendance, experts say, is certain to be the worst in a quarter-century and maybe you can guess what that means for theater revenue in terms of lucrative concession revenues.
Mid-August through Labor Day is traditionally a sleepy theater time as families prepare for school and vacation bills begin arriving. But this entire summer was a domestic disaster, even before Hurricane Harvey wiped out Texas business for days.
It got so bad this summer that Warner Bros. sent its huge hit “Wonder Woman” back into theaters again to skim off another $1.7 million before the DVD release.
It’s anyone’s guess why precisely the domestic box office played Titanic. For one thing, there were an awful lot of sequels and it seems people just got tired of some.
For instance, “Transformers: The Last Knight” pulled in $130 million. But the destruction of yet another downtown by feuding robots is the lowest-earning of five Transformers. Likewise, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” reaped $172 million, again the lowest of its film family.
Box-office busts included “Baywatch,” “The Dark Tower” and “The House.”
Perhaps, if you’re like many, the recent cinematic fare combined with the public political antics of too many actors has soured you on enriching them even more. Some of us suspect Hollywood is as out of touch with the Heartland as Washington elites and media were last fall.
Given the tumult in the news every day, it’s no accident then that escapist fantasy fare proved the most successful at the U.S. box office.
“Wonder Woman” ($406 million), “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($389 million), “Spider Man” ($319 million) and, of course, “Despicable Me 3” ($256 million) proved the most popular.
Along with Boeing, Hollywood is one of the country’s most successful exporters, which proved a summertime saving grace for movie-makers. Disappointing at home, Pirates grossed $618 million overseas. Same for Transformers, which took in $474 million abroad. “Wonder Woman” nearly doubled its domestic take abroad, pulling in another $806 million in foreign sales. We suspect she will return.
And those not-really despicable minions tripled their domestic take abroad to bring home another $972 million from foreign showings. That’s not even deplorable.