Just one year ago Hollywood was partying like it was 2009. For second or third straight summer in a row, studios were rolling out films that pleased audiences, critics and their pocketbook alike, which is an extremely rare feat for the industry to do these days. In 2008, Wall-E, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight topped the box office (with The Dark Knight tumbling new records) and were garnering staggering reviews, then received a slew of Oscar nominations down the road. All were happy.
The year 2009 followed suit. Transformers 2 opened to be the largest grossing movie of the summer, crossing the $400 million mark even if it did get annihilated by critics. Up, Star Trek, The Hangover, The Proposal and more had taken box office expectations and blew them away into becoming monster blockbusters. All were reviewed above fair, many dominated come awards season. Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker had just been released. The State of the Box Office was in the best shape ever, and 2009 would go on to gross over $10 billion, a new record.
Flash-foward a year later. Sure 2010 had the same vigor to start, on track to becoming even bigger thanks to films like Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and How to Train Your Dragon, all 3D features. With that gimmick wearing off and a release schedule getting grim, Hollywood finds itself in one of the worst summers in years, since 2001 to be specific.
Iron Man 2 opened to a fantastic $128 million but was dubbed a stinker sequel and is settling below the original at around $310 million, not bad numbers, but no box office or critical breakout. Shrek 4, Prince of Persia, Sex and the City 2, Robin Hood, The A-Team, Get Him to the Greek and Killers have underperformed significantly and have been trashed by critics. Over half of those films cost around $200 million to make, and only a handful have crossed the $100 million mark, and only Shrek 4 has crossed to $220 million, still making it the lowest grossing film of the franchise.
Besides the big blockbusters, there have been no Hangover hits for smaller alternative programming films like Splice to balance the books. So far the box office this summer is down $147 million from last year and May box office itself was down 20%. Luckily Toy Story 3 opened to expectations and great reviews, but the schedule from here on out is looking grim. Twilight: Eclipse, Inception, and Salt are about the only ones left to save the numbers. Is this finally it? Is the one power Edward Cullen actually possesses saving the box office?
It’s something critics and audiences with higher taste have been complaining about for years. Too many sequels. Too many adaptations. Too many remakes. Not enough originality. Did Robin Hood really need a reboot? Does anybody really care about what happens with Shrek anymore? Marmaduke, The A-Team, Sex and the City, Karate Kid? Anything that is original, is completely unoriginal. For instance, Killers or Knight and Day are completely formulaic and boring in every way.
Hollywood needs to fall on its ass. This summer audience ought to stay home and rewatch a favorite on DVD instead of heading to the multiplex and dropping $20 after deciding between Action Movie Turned Romantic Comedy Because Mr. and Mrs. Smith Did So Well or I Guess This Show Was Okay in the 70’s. It’s just like NBC with the Leno situation with the Wal-Mart targeted programming they are dishing out. They need to fail and feel the pinch so executives get fired and start putting out content audiences and critics actually want. You pay for Leno salary for Leno talent, you get Leno quality.
Where is our Conan? Where is our District 9, Moon, (500) Days of Summer or hell, we’d even like to take a Hangover? Because in a way that’s what this whole summer is starting to feel like, like 2008 and 2009 were big recession proof boozed up parties, and now we are paying the price with a movie depression headache from hell. Please Hollywood, read our pleas!!! No 3D glasses necessary.