By Ashley Pauls
Box Office Buzz
Well, that was…interesting. I was trying to come up with a sentence to summarize my thoughts on the 2016 summer blockbuster season, and that’s what I ended up with. As a whole, this summer seemed to have a larger number of misfires than normal, and quite a few major releases that either failed to perform at the box office or live up to audience expectations.
Of course, “Captain America: Civil War” did get things off to a strong start, with an impressive $179 million opening weekend and a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s currently tied for my favorite movie of the summer. However, from there things got rockier, and quite a few sequels, reboots, and remakes under-performed. “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Now You See Me 2,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” seemed to come and go without a lot of fanfare. The video game adaptation “Warcraft” also failed to do much at the U.S. box office, though it picked up some steam overseas.
So, what happened? Although it could have something do with audiences simply getting tired of “more of the same,” that isn’t all of it, since two sequels, “Captain America: Civil War” and “Finding Dory,” performed very well. Perhaps the other films simply didn’t bring enough new material to their franchises or fully play up the nostalgia factor, like “Jurassic World” did last summer. Maybe the window of opportunity for films like the “Independence Day” sequel had already passed.
We also saw that bad buzz — or even simply minimal buzz — can hurt a film. I’ve always wondered what kind of power Rotten Tomatoes scores have on the average movie viewer (all the under-performers listed above did have negative Rotten Tomatoes scores). Maybe audience members don’t necessarily pay attention to those scores, but if a film isn’t getting a lot of good buzz, people might just elect to stay home. Online streaming services like Netflix are giving consumers access to more and more content, including older movies and TV shows and fresh, original content. If there’s nothing amazing in the theater, they can just stay home and easily find something to watch online. Besides, the cost of a month’s subscription to Netflix and a bowl of popcorn at home is far less expensive than the cost of taking a family to the theater every weekend, with tickets + concessions.
I think poor buzz contributed to the under-performance of “Ghostbusters” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which is a shame because I quite liked both of these films. Granted, “Apocalypse” might have been a little too hard to follow for viewers who weren’t super-fans of the film series (the film has lots of references to what’s happened before). But the film has some fun scenes and great performances, once again, from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as prequel-era Professor X and Magneto. “Ghostbusters” actually drew a lot of anger from some fans, and I believe it’s unlikely we’ll get a sequel. While of course it’s okay to be concerned about a reboot or to ultimately dislike it, the online chatter about this film turned rather nasty and sadly veered in a racist and sexist direction. 🙁
Speaking of negative online chatter, Warner Bros.’ hotly-anticipated super villain round-up “Suicide Squad” created quite a stir when it drew really, really bad reviews. Some fans even called for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down and complained that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films were too good and should never have been made because they set an unrealistic standard for DC Comics movies (yes, I really saw someone arguing that). “Suicide Squad” isn’t a terrible film, but it is fair to say it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Although it boasted a $133 million opening weekend, I think its drop-off will be steep. At this point, Warner Bros. really needs the Wonder Woman movie to be a critical AND commercial hit, or their films post “Justice League” may be dead in the water.
Finally, a film that was close to my heart was “Star Trek: Beyond.” This movie really felt like a love letter to the Original Series and showed off the great chemistry among this reboot cast. Unfortunately, it under-performed at the box office too, and now I’m afraid Paramount won’t go ahead with that fourth movie they announced. This was a great movie, and I really hope we get to see more from this cast.
In conclusion, overall I was a little disappointed in this summer blockbuster season, and right now “Star Trek: Beyond” and “Captain America: Civil War” are the only movies with guaranteed slots on my “best of the year” list (in fact, they’re the only movies to make that list so far this year). However, the fall and winter season should chase some of these summer blahs away. “Doctor Strange,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and “Rogue One” all look fantastic.
So, what did you think of the movies this summer? What films did you like or dislike?