By James Hirsen Special For USDR
In terms of box-office performance, summer 2014 is not exactly turning out to be the blockbuster season Hollywood had been hoping for.
The Fourth of July holiday weekend, which is typically a key revenue generating time period for Hollywood, has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
Newly released movies actually brought in 44 percent fewer dollars than they did in last year’s matching time slot, handing the entertainment industry one of the worst Independence Day weekends it has ever experienced.
Contributing to the downtrend is the raunchy R-rated film “Tammy,” which stars Melissa McCarthy. The comedy recently underperformed in a dramatic way, bringing in an estimated $21 million over the weekend and a total gross of $33 million since its release. By comparison, analysts and studio executives harbored expectations that the movie would gross around $45 million in the five-day span.
Warner Bros. seems to be on a particularly atrocious summer streak, as the company is dealing with subpar performance in three major summer releases: “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Jersey Boys,” and the aforementioned “Tammy.”
The studio is likely rethinking the decision to release McCarthy’s project over such a significant summer weekend. According to the Wall Street Journal, Warner had snapped up the script without actually having read it.
Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. distribution chief, reacted to the box-office news, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “There’s nothing wrong here. It’s true that tracking was more favorable for us going into the weekend, but this was a $20 million movie. This is a movie Melissa did by herself with her husband. It doesn’t have a big supporting star like Sandy [Bullock, who co-starred with McCarthy in “The Heat”].”
Still, as far as the Hollywood film business is concerned, something is extremely off-track. This summer’s numbers are down more than 19% when compared to last year, according to Rentrak, a firm that compiles ticketing data. The drop occurred even though there have been summer hits such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “22 Jump Street.”
Revenues from the first weekend in May through Independence Day weekend amounted to $2.3 billion; this stands in contrast to the $2.8 billion taken in during the equivalent period in 2013, a downturn of 19.3% according to Rentrak’s estimates.
The dismal summer stats are quickly turning industry smiles upside down. Domestic box-office revenues were up almost 9% over the previous year as Hollywood was heading into the summer season. However, the total box office for 2014 has now turned negative. It is down 3.8% from 2013, according to BoxOffice.com, and as such it will be highly unlikely for the movie industry to fair better than 2013’s total $10.9 billion, ultimately resulting in 2014 having negative box-office growth.
Hollywood insiders are scrambling for a way to explain the sorry news. Some blame East Coast weather, others the World Cup. Some even cite the postponed releases of big-budget entries, including “Fast & Furious 7.”
The real reason for the downturn, though, may be the inevitable competition that new entertainment platforms pose to the whole traditional movie concept.
More and more people have big-screen capability that can either match, come close to, or in some cases even exceed the quality and atmosphere of the old-style theater experience.
Artistic storytelling, production methodology, and computer generated imagery of current cable and broadcast fare obviously exceeds in many instances the techniques and presentations of the past. Adding to the media mix is the advent of streaming and a plethora of on-demand programming.
For our entertainment pleasure, it looks as though we have a new version of what we used to call “dinner and a movie.”