Summer movie round-up: be glad you missed them
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 2, 2013 23:09
This summer at the movies was a desperate mix of sadness, superheroes, and explosions that did not always pay off for the companies that threw them together. Unfortunately, that does not mean the brakes will be applied soon as the fevered whispers of new “Batman” castings and “Star Wars” sequels. In the 2013 summer blockbuster season, it is projected that the number of sequels or prequels will match the record held by 2011: 27. In general, with a season without “The Avengers” or “Dark Knight Rises,” most films have tended to disappoint rather than astound because they have relied on formulas that have proven a little rusty. This year’s only $1 billion-plus earner, “Iron Man 3,” came in May, and since then the only film that has come close is an animated sequel whose most popular feature is a bunch of small yellow creatures.
Still, “Despicable Me 2” was a successful film, and I will not give too much flak to a film that warms the hearts of millions for now. Instead let us poke fun at a film like “The Lone Ranger” which had the difficult task of recouping its $215 million dollar production budget. You would have thought Disney would have learned after spending $250 million on “John Carter” that maybe they should cool it a little on their big budgeted films. (Bear in mind, their budgets listed here don’t include marketing budgets; “The Lone Ranger” had one around $175 million.) Despite a projected loss of $190 million (otherwise known as an amount that could send over 2,000 people to college for four years), Disney shrugged it off, correctly pointing out that three of its other tent pole films (“Iron Man 3,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and “Monsters University”) were successes and more, considering all three are in the top-10 highest grossing films this year.
While it pains me to write this, Disney is actually correct: even if one of their films that was “perfect on paper” according to a Disney executive bombs, Disney has been too big of production company to kill since the 1980s, when Don Bluth was finally defeated by a small movie called “The Little Mermaid.” To a company like Disney who has been making billions off the hopes and dreams of small children for quite some time, a movie like “The Lone Ranger” doesn’t even hurt Disney’s stock; in fact their stock rose by over a dollar in the days following the film’s release.
Other ‘perfect on paper’ films starring superheroes, explosions, women getting rescued, and men with their shirts off, like “Man of Steel,” “White House Down,” and “World War Z,” underperformed as well. As a film produced by Christopher Nolan, one would have thought “Man of Steel” would have earned more than just 60-percent of what “The Dark Knight Rises” brought in. (But it’s cool guys, Batfleck will be here to save the day in 2015.) Disaster films like “World War Z” and “White House Down” suffered with the latter not even earning back its production budget with a director who brought us “Independence Day.” (I know, it is like the guy has a theme going on or something.) One could argue, and I would, that both of these films suffered from a forced PG-13 rating which brought the violence and bloodshed down in an attempt to rake in the 13-year-old boy viewers. What it really leaves us with is an action flick with the bite of “Die Hard” and zombie flick as scary as an episode of “The Walking Dead” at that stupid farm.
So after a disappointing summer, what lies ahead for blockbusters? Certainly not their death, even though with 29 blockbuster films on the roster for 2015, they are certainly attempting to smother their audiences to death. It is comical because 60-percent of these films are likely to fail if they follow the pattern of 2013. Even though the foreign markets are wooed with simplistic and shiny blockbusters, most of the money earned overseas does not return to the studio. The reality is that the budgets of films keep increasing from the at-the-time extravagant $100 million budget of “The Phantom Menace” to a point where production companies are throwing $200 million away on cowboy movies, the genre whose highest earner was a film that came out over 20 years ago, “Dances with Wolves.” Maybe 2013 is not the year blockbusters will die, but eventually even Disney will not be able to afford to go bigger.