Hollywood is running out of ideas. Seriously, just look at weekend releases for most of the year and try to find two in a row without a franchise movie release. So far, we have gotten a new or debut installment in xXx, Resident Evil, The Ring, John Wick, X-Men, King Kong, Power Rangers, The Smurfs, The Fast and the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy, Alien, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, Cars, Transformers and Despicable Me, which opened on Friday. That is 16 franchise releases within a 24-week period, with many more coming up through the end of the summer.
For the month of May, average box-office receipts for nationwide releases haven’t had a significant drop as low as this year, and last year, since 2007. That’s a bit concerning for studios when it comes to the official launch of the summer movie season. With one more weekend to go in 2017’s June box-office closing, the average gross is at only $59.8 million for nationwide releases. You would have to go all the way back to 2003 to find such floundering numbers for the month of June. One has to wonder whether the surge of franchise films is to blame. When an audience’s movie-going experience is contingent on seeing a previous installment of a franchise, there is a disincentive for them to participate.
The average summer quarter box-office earnings for all movies this year is only $13.3 million. That number is on pace to only average $30.46 million by Labor Day, the official end to the summer movie season. That would be the lowest average earnings per film release in over a decade, and a 15.6% drop in average summer box office sales over the same period. In fact, the year 2006 also had a number of franchise films, such as Pirates 2, X-Men 3, The Da Vinci Code and Mission: Impossible III.
Of course, studios don’t want to admit any fault. Some studios are going so far as to blaming critic reviews for their films’ failures. Some studio insiders close to the Baywatch movie and Pirates of the Caribbean 5 have laid blame on Rotten Tomatoes for generating disinterest in their movies. The fact that those ratings are displayed on ticket-purchasing sites such as Fandango certainly doesn’t help them. Even Baywatch star Dwayne Johnson accused critics of laughing at the movie’s screening and still giving unfavorable reviews.
There are certainly many variables for the decline in movie studios’ revenue in recent years. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu must also factor in the drop in ticket sales. Though the fact that studios don’t put any faith in new ideas is probably beginning to backfire in a big way, now. Audiences don’t always want to invest in seeing a continuous story year after year, but it seems like one of their only options left.
Like every other business, studios need to either adapt to customers’ needs or suffer the consequences.