There’s no easy way to say this but 2017’s slate of blockbuster films has been under performing.
In fact, several films are flopping at the box office.
And the summer box office is down 14.6% from 2016.
It probably won’t shock you but studios such as Warner Bros., Paramount, EuropaCorp and Lionsgate have loss hundreds of millions with their high budget films. No I’m not talking about the DC Extended Universe (they’re doing just fine) but films such as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Monster Trucks, which have budgets over $100 million.
Now you’re probably thinking, “What the heck is Monster Trucks?” Well you are one of the many audiences who didn’t even know this film existed. In fact, Paramount had to take a write down of $115 million months before the films release.
Due to these box office bombs, I decided to write this piece to inform you about the box office. This article will discuss the factors that influence the box office as well the things movie studios should consider when they make big budget films.
What Influences the Box Office?
Movies are highly influenced by reviews and word of mouth. This is because the price of going to the movies is sky high and consumers are becoming more selective with their entertainment options. Hence, it is paramount that critics as audiences alike receive films positively.
This is exemplified in this year’s Wonder Woman when tracking predicted the film would do $65-$75 million in its opening weekend. The reason for the prediction was due to the negative reception of Batman v Superman, which got a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and had a second weekend drop of 69%.
However, Wonder Woman was met with positive reviews from critics and got a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were also pleased and got an ‘A’ Cinema Score compared to Batman v Superman which got a ‘B’ Cinema Score. As a result, Wonder Woman was the highest earner domestically at the 2017 summer box office with $412 million.
Negative reviews and word of mouth can also ruin a film’s box office. The fifth Transformers installment, Transformers: The Last Knight only made $610 million when it opened last June. Although $610 million is enough for this film to make a profit, the last two Transformers installments made over $1.1 billion each. This under performance could be due to the weak 15% rotten tomato score and ‘B+’ Cinema Score.
In March 2017, there were six blockbuster films. These include Logan, Kong: Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast (live action), Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell and The Boss Baby.
Out of those movies, Power Rangers and Ghost in the Shell flopped. Whilst it is argued that Ghost in the Shell did poorly due to its white washing scandal, Power Rangers was in a good position going into release. The main problem it faced was competition. According to Postrak, Power Rangers’ audience was 65% male. This is very similar to Logan’s audience, which was 63% male, and Ghost in the Shell, which was 61% male.
Furthermore, Power Rangers was marketed as a family friendly film. This was not a good strategy as it was up against box office juggernaut Beauty and the Beast, which made $174.7 million the weekend before.
Due to this, Power Rangers only made $40.5 million in its opening weekend whilst Beauty and the Beast made an additional $90.4 million.
To make matters worst, family film The Boss Baby over performed with $50.2 million the weekend after. As a result, Power Rangers got buried as more anticipated movies dominated. Therefore, Power Rangers could have done better at the box office if the film was released in a less crowded market.
Also, streaming services such as Netflix are keeping audiences at home. As of June 28 2017, a Netflix subscription costs $9.99 aud a month. Considering the average movie ticket cost $13.80 aud these days, it’s not surprising that there are over 100 million Netflix subscribers with 52.77 million subscribers in the US alone.
There’s a very small amount of movie stars working today. In fact, only actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Cruise are big enough stars to bring in audiences. This is because these actors make films that appeal to viewers domestically and internationally. Due to this, consumers trust their product and are likely to see movies that star them.
In addition, there are actors who are movie stars due to one major role. Let me explain what I mean with actor Chris Hemsworth. I think we can all agree that he is an A-List actor due to his role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, if you look at his filmography, you’ll see that Hemsworth struggles to bring in audiences when he isn’t playing the Asgardian God of Thunder. His box office bombs include Rush, Black Hat, In the Heart of the Sea and The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
As you can see, it’s the character that is profitable and not so much the actor itself. I bring this up because the idea of actors being box office poison does not exist. This is because some brands are too strong to fail. For example, the three main actors in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (not including Harrison Ford) were unknown to the general public. Nevertheless, the film grossed over $2 billion. Therefore, movies stars do not carry as much weight when it comes to high budget films.
High Production Costs
Some movies flop at the box office simply because their budget is too high. These include films such as Monster Trucks, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It’s not that these films made very little money; it’s just that these films were never expected to make profit. Let’s use King Arthur: Legend of the Sword for example. There have been three King Arthur films in total with the other two coming out in 2004 and 2007. This probably won’t surprise you but all three renditions were box office bombs.
As for Monster Trucks, it should have never been allowed a $125 million budget. This is because the film is an original property. This means that the film is not based on a book, previous film, comic, toy or television show. Therefore, Monster Trucks did not have an existing audience and was unable to recoup its budget.
Blade Runner 2049 is another film, which shouldn’t have been allowed its $155 million budget. Unlike Monster Trucks though, Blade Runner 2049 was a sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner. The problem is that the first film was a box office bomb so it was unlikely that the sequel would do much better. Right now the film is a flop with a current gross of $198 million but has yet to release in China. So maybe it’ll gross $200 million like Warcraft and breakeven but chances are doubtful.
What Factors Should be Considered When Making a High Budget Film?
The most important factor to consider when deciding the budget is the film’s brand recognition. This plays a very large role since it shows the amount of viewers interested in the film.
Big brands include Star Wars, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Despicable Me Franchise and the DC Extended Universe. These films are major players at the box office and will almost guarantee a place in the top 10 films of the year.
This is because brands such as Star Wars and Marvel make event films. An event film involves building buzz around a movie so that audiences don’t want to be left out of the conversation. This is illustrated with 2016’s mega hit Deadpool.
We knew Deadpool was going to make a lot of money but to gross $783 million and become the second most profitable film of 2016 was surprising. However, the film succeeded by making sure Deadpool wasn’t just any comic book movie but a movie, which would change how comic book films were perceived.
Book sales also play a large role in which movies are made. The Harry Potter novels have sold over 400 million copies worldwide. Due to the phenomenal success of the books, the movies grossed a total of $7.7 billion dollars at the box office. In addition, the Fifty Shades Of Grey books sold over 125 million and the first two installments have grossed a total of $952 million in ticket sales. Finally, The Hunger Games novels sold over 50 million copies and made $2.9 billion worldwide. Thus, the strength of the novel greatly affects its box office numbers.
Whilst there are big pockets of box office around the world, there’s no denying that China is the only market outside of the US is have a significant impact. Therefore, it is imperative high budget films appeal to the Middle Kingdom.
This year, Wolf Warrior 2 made $870 million in China alone. To put that into perspective, Wolf Warrior 2 is the second highest grossing domestic film behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which grossed $936.7 million in the US back in December 2015.
So why aren’t movies taking advantage of this? Out of this years (so far) box office bombs, only Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets made a healthy gross in China with $62 million. This is attributed to casting Chinese actor Kris Wu as a sergeant in the film.
However, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did not include Chinese elements in their films. Consequently, these three films grossed abysmal numbers in the second largest market in the world.
As consumers become more demanding with their entertainment, movie studios need to be careful with their budgets. This is because consumers only come out in bulk when the film is positively received and when there’s low competition in the market. The most important thing is for movie studios to make films the audience will like and that way, everyone will be happy.