Predicting the Box Office, Part I

Nobody knows nothin’.


Well, not exactly. Prognostication in Hollywood is best left inside the movies, but even it fails there. The Studios look at films as investments; supposedly, one “blockbuster” makes up for 20 movies that “lose” money. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket…


Steven Spielberg was interviewed in 1982 after he had made “E.T.,” and basically said that every time a film is released the Studios want it to be the “tied-game, last of the ninth homerun hit; the basketball slam-dunk during overtime…” 26 years later and the Studios still expect the same, albeit with an edge of cynicism.


Part of what’s hurting the Studios are their choices for summer releases. Ten years ago (summer 1998) the choices were “Deep Impact,” “Bulworth,” “Godzilla,” “The Truman Show,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Six Days Seven Nights,” “The X-Files: Fight the Future,” “Doctor Dolittle,” “Armageddon,” “Lethal Weapon 4,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “The Mask of Zorro,” “Disturbing Behavior,” “BASEketball,” “The Negotiator,” “Halloween H20,” “Air Bud: Golden Receiver,” “Blade,” “54,” and “Wrongfully Accused.” Just looking at this list (I’ve seen all but 4 of these movies) the selection runs the spectrum: kid movies, action/adventure movies, comedies, scifi movies, romantic comedies… it’s across the board.


And that’s the problem of late: lack of variety at the Studios. Anyone remember last year? We had “Pirates of the Caribbean 3,” “Shrek 3,” “Bourne 3,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Rush Hour 3;” anything that could have the number 3 attached to it was sent out to do box office battle against original fare, as well as the rest of the 3’s. The audience got sick of it. Sure, this “3” may have been better than “2,” but neither were as good as “1” but was any “3” better than any other “3?” Did Studio execs ever get to hear or eavesdrop on these conversations?


Probably not. Like a three-year-old who realizes that he can no longer do the thing he got in trouble for doing and moves on to something else, so do the Studios. This summer is official SUPERHERO SUMMER. “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and the “Dark Knight,” have all graced comic books and are showcasing this summer, as well as the original superhero flick, “Hancock,” and “Punisher: War Zone,” is due out later this year.


Are you superhero’d out yet?


Which brings me back to predicting the box office. The Studios have their marketing divisions and their expectations on what movies will rake in the dough. Remember: these are their investments. And when the film/”product” doesn’t do well, they try making back their profits through DVD and Cable distribution. But why does every Studio feel inclined to push out the same genre, the same type of movie? Whatever happened to the variety they did have?


Unfortunately, I don’t have those answers and I don’t know if I ever will. The Studios seem content to follow each other around; delivering the same type of product the other is doing and gambling at how much theirs makes over the others.


To be continued…

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