State of the Summer Box Office: The Worst Summer in Years

The Situation

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.

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May Box Office in Review

May in Review

In a way the month as a lot like the movies that filled it, big, bloated, fairly predictable and a little underwhelming. The box office, in recent months, has been on a record breaking streak until it hit this May, one of the worst starts to summer in years. Overall business was down 11% from last year. There were no surprises or break outs like last year’s Star Trek or Up. Then again this year did boast more big pictures, but outside a couple of big (but still under-performing) opening weekends, there wasn’t a whole lot of money to be made.

As I predicted in my box office predictions earlier this summer that Shrek Forever After would open significantly lower ($70 million and I was right on the money) than previous installments and that Iron Man 2 would fizzle out after the opening weekend and prove to have not-so-iron legs. Although I did not predict the box office for the rest of the month, my predictions for Sex and the City and Prince of Persia wouldn’t have been too far off. Here is a weekend by weekend highlight of the month. Continue reading

REVIEW: Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Written by: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke (screenplay)
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas

Outside of Pixar, the Shrek franchise is probably the most famous digital animation escapade.  The first Shrek is widely considered a classic, an uproarious send-up of the Disney fairy tale.  The subsequent entries have all had their share of laughs, but none have matched the first one for blending heart-warming story with beautifully done satire.

The same is true with Shrek Forever After, the fourth and (they say) final installment in the series.  This one finds Shrek (Mike Myers) discontent and emasculated as the head of his new ogre family.  His first part in the movie begins with an intentionally redundant montage sequence showing the repetitiveness of his every day life with his three kids and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz.)

The rest of the movie follows Shrek as he pays for his discontent by making a fool’s bargain with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) and trades one day in his life for one day as an unhinged ogre.  The impish Stiltskin tricks him, taking back the day he was born and sending him to a world where he never existed.  From here on out, it’s a not so wonderful life.

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Summer Box Office Predictions

1. Inception

Release date: July 16th

Plot summary: Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is an agent who has the technology to enter the minds of business tycoons to retrieve their strategies and sell them to the highest bidder. But the mind is no safe place for Dom and his team who find themselves in a place where things can rearrange and people can have powers outside of reality. When a heist goes wrong, one CEO seeks to steal the technology from the thieves attacking him.

Why it will rule: Just a few short summers ago, Christopher Nolan delivered audiences The Dark Knight, a domestic and overseas smash that made $1 billion worldwide and nabbed the attention of critics and mainstream audiences alike. Nolan’s talent lies in making brilliant narratives into dark, compelling films that are popularized by their own quality. Add in Leonardo DiCaprio and his latest success with Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Warner Bros. incredible marketing team for dark blockbusters, it looks to be a hit. All that and the trailer proves that this is going to be Memento mind-bending with The Dark Knight effects squad and July release.

Why it will fail: With the exception of the Batman franchise, Nolan has yet to have a real big blockbuster. Without the branding, and without knowing what it is really about, audiences might turn down this smarter box office fair for more Transformers style blow em’ up blockbusters as entertainment. Also, this movie is missing the Heath Ledger effect.

Estimated box office: $100 million OW / $410 million Domestic

2. Toy Story 3

Release date: June 18th Continue reading