This summer of 2017 has been one of the worst ever for Hollywood. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the number of tickets sold is likely to hit a 25-year low, and summer box-office revenue in America is down about 16 percent. If it weren’t for international ticket sales, which increased slightly, the movie industry would be looking at a summer of complete, catastrophic, virtually across-the-board failure.
Why did the summer of ’17 suck for Hollywood? If you read the Hollywood Reporter story linked above, a theme quickly becomes apparent: almost every would-be blockbuster seems to be a remake or the latest installment of a tired “franchise.” Pirates of the Caribbean 5. The latest Transformers CGI-fest. The Mummy and Baywatch. And some of the new efforts, like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, were colossal bombs.
It’s not hard to draw the conclusion that the film industry has run out of creative gas. When every big commercial film is a remake of a TV show, a comic book, or another remake, you’re not exactly giving moviegoers lots of new, interesting fare that might lure them to the box office. You’re not finding the next Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind at your local theater. Kish and I were totally unmotivated by this summer’s fare. Whenever we checked what was at the local megaplex our reaction was always . . . meh. We were far more interested in what was playing at the local art film houses, or what was on Netflix. The only big movie I saw this summer was The Dark Tower, which was an excuse for a bunch of guys to go have a beer and watch an action film. I would never have gone to see it otherwise.
Will Hollywood learn a lesson from the dismal summer of ’17, and start looking for some new, fresh, original ideas for films that will get people out of their houses and off to the theater? Maybe — but don’t count on it. There were some franchise and remake successes this summer, with the new Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Despicable Me 3, and Wonder Woman films performing well. Hollywood likes franchises and remakes because they seem safe and conservative, with built-in audiences and no need to come up with original story ideas, so Hollywood will probably point to the successes, disregard the duds, continue with remakes, and comic book stories, and “franchise” flicks.
And if that happens, the rest of us will continue to stay home.