Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lackluster Summer Blockbuster Numbers

Why is the 2011 Summer Blockbuster season seeming so lackluster in ticket sales thus far? Typically, we look to the action/fantasy/sci-fi/super hero films to show us what big numbers a movie can really make - romances, dramas and comedies don't usually reach the stratospheric numbers of the tailored "Summer Blockbuster" movies. Many critics are looking at the 2011 movies and asking why the box office figures aren't where they "should" be. Is it because the movies suck, or that they're marketing campaigns didn't reach audiences? Is it because the films were too ambiguous, or that there's too many of the same type of film - 3 super hero movies so far with 3 more to go (Captain America, Conan, Cowboys & Aliens). Or is it something else that people just don't want to talk about - the economy?

I’ve seen all three comic book movies of the summer thus far: Thor, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern. Out of all of them, I felt that X-Men: First Class was the most grounded and well paced. The super sci-fi/fantasy elements of both Green Lantern and Thor are strong departures from what we know – Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man were all earth-based with human villains. Even the early Christopher Reeve Superman movies, which still present a standard today, rooted the titular hero in a very earth-based movie series with mostly human villains. The otherworldly element of massive alien clouds of fear coming to suck your souls out may be a bit of a stretch, as well as the almost ambiguous invasion of Asgardians and Frost Giants. I am biased to this material due to my familiarity with the genre. But for fresh audiences, it’s likely that Green Lantern and Thor gave the audience too much to digest too soon and too quickly.

BUT, despite my bias, it is obvious that the studios have learned from their mistakes - the relatively low quality of a Daredevil or a Catwoman or Elektra is not present here. These new comic book films are far more enjoyable and palatable than these 3 previous entries. Unfortunately, it's possible that with the run-away success of the new Batman films, as well as Spider-Man and the sneak hit Iron Man, the numbers may be skewed. Not EVERY comic book movie is going to make a billion dollars, so perhaps that expectation bar is being held too high.

I think that the studios need to take into consideration that with ticket prices continually going up, they are likely to see some drop off in movie goers. I think economic issues are definitely a primary decision maker as to whether or not people will go to the movies, which can be a relatively expensive venture, or wait until the film is available on DVD, or various online purchase options. This is likely to be where the true success of these films needs to be measured.

Perhaps we'll need to wait and see what Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2 do in numbers before we know for sure if ticket sales are indeed plummeting.