The long Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the American summer movie season, so for Hollywood studios this past weekend’s the dismal ticket sales are clear cause for concern. Dollarwise, it was the worst Memorial Day weekend at the box office in nine years; in terms of actual bodies in seats, it was the worst in fifteen years. (Analysis: Box Office Mojo, Box Office Guru.)
Hollywood’s two-punch strategy, targeting male audiences with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and female viewers with Sex and the City 2, failed on both fronts as neither demographic showed much interest. By default, the weekend went to the week-old Shrek Forever After, though the DreamWorks fourquel is losing steam fast compared to its predecessors, even the lame Shrek the Third.
Rounding out the top five are Iron Man 2, the summer’s one certified hit, and Robin Hood, a disappointment if not quite a dud. Even Iron Man probably won’t quite match the success of the original.
Meanwhile, what’s on the horizon? A few sure things, certainly. Toy Story 3 and the latest Twilight flick will rock the box office. 1980s nostalgia might power The A-Team and the Jackie Chan–Jaden Smith Karate Kid remake to success.
After that, who knows? Will family audiences turn out in droves for Marmaduke, Despicable Me or a Cats & Dogs sequel? (It’s been ten years since Cats & Dogs. Half the kids who saw it in theaters are watching R-rated movies now.) Will action fans find anything to connect with in Night and Day or Salt? Will Jonah Hex connect with anyone but dyed-in-the-wool comic-book fans? Does anyone really want another Predator flick? Really?
The movie I’m most excited to see is Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but who knows how it will do at the box office?
So far, audiences aren’t thrilled with what moviemakers are serving ... and when moviegoers vote with ticket sales, or lack thereof, those votes will be counted—and agonized over.
What lessons Hollywood may from recent box-office results is another matter. Some possible lessons (I’m not saying those are the lessons I want Hollywood to draw):
Nostalgia works too. If Clash of the Titans’ success carries over to The Karate Kid and The A-Team, watch out. Can it really be that no one has made a Fall Guy feature film? What about a Princess Bride sequel?
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.