Blood is in the Water, Because Box Office Predictions are Coming True
Last week, I wrote about what would happen if the summer box office was to implode, and I blamed the overabundance of poor sequels and cinematic universes for the potential implosion. Now that Memorial Day weekend is behind us, this summer seems to be going exactly as was predicted.
2017’s Memorial Day box office is the lowest since 1999, earning a total of $173.2 million. As of the writing of this piece, revenue has decreased by 10% compared to 2016 and 20% compared to 2015. And many of the films that have underperformed are, you guessed it, based on pre-existing source material.
Alien: Covenant opened to a disappointing $36 million and dropped over 70% this weekend. Baywatch, a film based off a 1990’s television show centering around the lives of lifeguards, opened to $23 million. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, opened to $62 million 3-day haul compared to its predecessors $90.1 million opening weekend.
Given that Baywatch is based off a relatively obscure 90’s show, it may not be fair to compare it to Pirates or Alien: Covenant, but I think it shares one striking similarity: all three failed to elicit a strong reaction from audiences. Alien: Covenant has an IMDb score of 6.8, Baywatch has an IMDb score of 5.5, and Pirates oddly enough has the highest score of 7.2, which itself is fairly low.
This may be a gross simplification, but I argued that there would be a strong link between the box office films that flopped and the films that scored poorly on IMDb. And looking at this date, Pirates had the highest score and the highest box office, while Baywatch had the lowest score and the lowest box office. There are a few films, like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that prove to be exceptions to this rule (as the film had a score of 7.3 and an opening of 14.7 million). But even though King: Arthur had a somewhat decent score, it still failed to garner audience interest through its poor advertisements and low Rotten Tomatoes score of 29%.
In the past few years quality has not shared a close correlation with box office gross, but the old-fashioned idea of good films performing well through word of mouth may become a reality very soon.
The only blockbuster that has performed well in the domestic box office has been Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, which has an IMDb score of 8.1 and a total domestic haul of $338 million. Granted, it has performed well because it is a MCU film, but MCU films have done well because the Studio has managed to establish a reputation for quality.
Something important to keep in mind is that films like Pirates of the Caribbean are performing exceptionally well in China even if they are disappointing in the United States. And whether Hollywood will chase after the foreign box office or the domestic is an interesting question that I will return to later.
But for right now, the predictions and fears surrounding the summer 2017 box office seem to be coming true. Sequels are disappointing and quality seems to be gaining importance. This week’s Wonder Woman will provide a better sense of where this summer may be headed. But regardless of how it performs, there are many more films to keep an eye on.
Transformers: The Last Knight, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Dunkirk could turn this summer in a massive success, or most of them could flop and leave the industry in the shadow of a looming crisis.
We will not know whether this summer proves to be a disaster until the end of the season. And while September may seem distant, this summer is off to a very bad start.