Disney had the magic at the movie theater this summer, but in general, consumers shrugged off a season of sequels.
As August comes to a close, summer box office receipts are down about 2 percent from last year, CNN reported, noting that the summer movie season runs from the first Friday in May until Labor Day.
Many films did not “live up to the hype,” according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“Brands still matter, but you have to have content that delivers and offers the moviegoer an exciting in-theater experience,” Dergarabedian said.
“Short of that, audiences today have way too many options to settle for just an OK experience,” he added.
“Movies are like coffee, they’re better when they’re fresh,” Dergarabedian said, citing the failure of “Men In Black: International” and “Dark Phoenix” to achieve breakout receipts.
“Many of this summer’s sequels and comedies seemed derivative and lacked a fresh perspective. That was met with indifference from audiences,” he said.
In summing up the summer season, Rolling Stone writer Tim Grierson noted that “Reboots and sequels are no longer a sure thing.”
Citing the low numbers of “Men in Black: International,” “Child’s Play” and “Shaft,” he wrote, “They were each hoping to hit the ‘refresh’ button on moribund franchises, enticing new generations with old intellectual property. And you can tell because each of these three underperformers have endings that open the door to possible sequels which, at least for the foreseeable future, will only exist in their creators’ heads.”
Disney found the secret to navigate the blahs, and produced the top-grossing movie of the summer in “The Lion King.” Disney also took second place for the summer with “Toy Story 4” and fourth place with its live action remake of “Aladdin.”
Disney also hit a home run with Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame.” Although the movie opened prior to the summer, its became the highest-grossing film of all time in July, the same month Disney set the record for the highest-grossing studio ever.
“No studio in the industry knows their audience better than Disney right now,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN.
“This summer, and 2019 as a whole, long looked to be their capstone movie slate after years of major franchise acquisitions and top tier brand development.”
Not everyone is a Disney fan.
Film critic Guy Lodge, writing in The Guardian, said Disney may be too dominant for the industry’s good.
“This kind of Hollywood imperialism is not encouraging news if you fear that reduced competition begets reduced creativity, even as Disney’s substantial fanbase — umbilically bound by the childhood nostalgia in which the corporation trades — zealously cheers it on,” he wrote.
“What other acquisitions are on its wishlist? Are we seeing a return to the rigidly controlled Hollywood studio system of the 1940s and 1950s — only with one studio effectively as the system? If so, a movement not dissimilar to the demands to break up big tech currently rippling towards Silicon Valley might be in order.”
But Hollywood loves a comeback. Later this year, “Joker,” “Jumanji: The Next Level” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will all hit theaters.
Dergarabedian said those have the potential to make the summer’s doldrums old news.
“We hit a record last year when the domestic box office brought in roughly $11.9 billion,” he told CNN. “If everything clicks from here on out, this year could be bigger. But it’ll be close.”
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