Thursday, 4 September 2014
‘Guardians’ Tops 2014 Box Office, But Can’t Save Hollywood’s Summer
Marvel’s cuddly sci-fi action comedy “Guardians of the Galaxy” recently surpassed Marvel’s grim “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to become the summer’s highest grossing flick. “Guardians” has taken in $262 million so far, and box office analysts predict that it could finish as high $320 million --a more than respectable return for an oddball comic book adaptation that most people had never heard of just a few months ago.
Compared to previous summers’ successes, this is a dismal performance. Last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” grossed $421 million, while the summer of 2012 saw Joss Whedon’s “Avengers” generate $623 million. (Another instalment of “The Hunger Games” is to be released later this year, but there is a feeling that perhaps the series has peaked).
The relatively meagre performance of the summer’s top grossing film is just one piece of bad news in a summer full of grim headlines for the movie industry. Now that the big releases have all come and, for the most part, gone, Hollywood is on track to have its least successful summer since 2006. When adjusted for inflation, this is the lowest grossing summer since 1992.
Hollywood will inevitably blame the movies themselves, citing poor quality and a lack of big tent pole features. With movies such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Amazing Spider Man 2” and the latest “Transformers” film, bad reviews and bad word of mouth certainly hurt, but movies like the most recent “X-men,” “Godzilla” and “Captain America,” as well as “Guardians,” were all very well reviewed and loved by fans.
The simple reason for the poor summer, and the one reason Hollywood is still slow to accept, is that people just do not go to the movies as much as they once did.
A curious thing happened at last week’s Emmy’s ceremony. Matthew McConaughey and Julia Roberts both attended. This should not have been surprising. Part of McConaughey’s renaissance was tied to his electrifying performance in HBO’s “True Detective,” and Roberts had a key part in HBO’s prestige drama “A Normal Heart.” McConaughey was almost a washed up joke three years ago, and Roberts is entering the autumn of her career (in vastly entertaining fashion, it should be added…. Her “I’m Julia Roberts, I can do whatever I want” shtick is priceless), but from the reactions of the other attendees, you’d have thought The Beatles came to sit in with their high-school band.
Television, far more than film, is where the cultural conversation is now centered. The sense that the two big movie stars were visiting angels was felt by the industry participants but not the audience. In the past year “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Veep,” “Orange is the New Black” and even lowly “Community” have all been important parts of the cultural conversation. By contrast, even Richard Linklater’s bold “Boyhood” is much admired but little seen.
Does Hollywood care?
Some of the biggest failures of the summer, including the most recent Transformers and Spiderman movies were gigantic successes overseas. In some cases, more than 70 percent of the films’ revenue came from overseas. Transformers 4 became the highest grossing film ever in China. If money is being made, why should Hollywood care if American audiences are too “sophisticated” for its product?
Amid the doom and gloom there is still the elephant (Wookie?) in the room for next summer. Disney’s first attempt at launching a “Star Wars” film in the post-Lucas age is set to hit in 2015. Even if the new films fail to live up to expectations (and expectations now seem to be no higher than for these movies to be better than the prequels), the first new “Star Wars” film will surely beat whatever “Guardians” final tally may be. If the Star Wars film is even slightly better than expected, it’ll easily overtake “The Avengers” (which will also have a sequel in theaters).
Regardless of the fates of any of those franchises, it is not the (Hollywood centered) entertainment industry that will suffer. Visual entertainment will still be produced, regardless of what it’s called or how it’s distributed. It’s the movie theater itself that seems most in danger of becoming a dinosaur.
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By: SAMOD BIOBAKU