Market Overview

Lamentation Over Hollywood: Weak Box Office Numbers


According to's Nikki Finke, Hollywood is worried about weak box office numbers, and rightly so. Finke: "Seriously, do movie moguls get into showbiz just to greenlight unnecessary remakes of teen movies, prequels to horror movies, or unfunny comedies that humiliate big stars like Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steven Martin?"

Finke claims that younger males, who used to be Hollywood's target audience, "have been no longer consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies since August". According to the article, one Hollywood executive has confessed that things are "soft" in the movie industry thus raising the question, "Where are those hardcore movie fans at this point?"

The real question about weak box office numbers is this: Is the problem of low box office numbers coming from a tough, unwilling audience or a lackluster movie industry? I think a struggling economy and a depressing, negative societal malaise hovering within a weary, overworked, overstretched populace are not helping the film industry. Not to mention a lack of decent, entertaining films.

The last movie that I saw in the theater was "Atlas Shrugged: Part I", and I think at this point owing to the results of the film, it is uncertain as to whether there is going to be an "Atlas Shrugged: Part II". Before "Atlas Shrugged", the last film I saw in the theater was "Inception", which despite the positive reviews I thought could have been better. The next last movie I saw in the theater was I think either "Up" or "Toy Story 3", which both were very good movies.

This is not to say that I am overly stingy in going to see movies. I recall back in the summer of 2008, I went to see about four or five movies including "Dark Knight" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". At least from my experience, as Hollywood is most likely discovering, people these days do not have money to spend on going to the movies unless they are satisfactorily confident that the movie is going to be worth the money.

Of course, popular movies with big box office numbers will return one day. If I had to guess, the next movie I am going to see in the theater will be "The Dark Knight Rises". If another Star Trek or Indiana Jones film comes out, I would also gladly pay money to go see it. Films that I would not pay money to go see include most of the films in theaters these days.

Just for fun and laughs I sometimes like to look at the movie listing and accompanying plot summaries at nearby local movie theaters. I then think to myself, "Is this the best Hollywood has to offer?" Owing to the dismal plot summaries, I think to myself, "How can Hollywood think that people want to go see this stuff?" Now, I am not a movie critic and I cannot speak for everyone. I am sure for many people the movies at theaters these days are appealing -- but not for me and not for my significant other. We have not been to the movies since "Atlas Shrugged", and even that movie left something to be desired.

Just for fun let's take a look at the movie listing for today. Even in looking at movie times at my local movie theater today, nothing is really sticking out to me as being worth $14 for us to go see. "Moneyball" sounds interesting, but I can wait until it comes out on DVD. "Footloose"? No. "The Lion King 3D"? No. "Dolphin Tale"? I am not sure what exactly that movie is about, but I can say with about 80% confidence that I would not be willing to pay money to go see it. Even if someone offered me free movie tickets, I am still not sure that I would go to see "Footloose", "The Lion King 3D", or "Dolphin Tale".

Even with the movie "Real Steel", I almost think that the plot of that movie was based on a DirecTV commercial. I remember when that DirecTV commercial first came out, I thought to myself, "I wish that movie were out in the theaters instead of the crap they have out now." Alas, such a movie is out in the theaters, and even so, I find myself unwilling to part with my hard-earned dollars. I think it's sad when clips of hypothetical movies in TV commercials look better than what's out in the movie theaters. That happens quite a bit for me unfortunately and probably for many of you as well.

"Halo" is another good example of TV commercials that I wish were actually movie trailers. Were a movie or series of movies made of the "Halo" franchise, I would go to see it and I think it would be quite a tremendous box office success.

Now, were there a Star Trek or Indiana Jones movie out, I would probably be more willing to pony up the $14 to see it in the theater. As for dry, ho-hum comedies, I am not as willing to shell out the clams.

I think Hollywood may be sandbagging us in terms of original film creativity. I mean, would it hurt to have a few naval movies in the theaters? (I have heard that a "Battleship" movie is coming out soon.) If Hollywood is really hurting for a few original movie ideas, I am more than willing to help. I have several very good movie ideas that Hollywood could use. I have a handful of movie ideas in particular that I think would bring substantial box office success.

I feel so sorry for Hollywood's lack of originality and creativity at this point that I will provide one crisp, clear movie concept in this article (with due creative and intellectual property rights reserved, of course; feel free to contact my agent). An excellent movie for this time period can be summed up in two words: Somalian pirates. Everyone enjoys a good swashbuckling pirate movie, right? Why not have a movie about Somalian pirates called "Tides of Wrath" or "Spearfish" or something? You could have an actor like Brad Pitt or Matt Damon being some up-and-coming naval officer in charge of a gunboat or patrol ship on its maiden voyage or something. Throw in an adventurous plot with some lost treasure (maybe some lost stock certificates), a hostage situation, a couple of intense battle scenes, and some Somalian pirates, maybe a diplomat or two, and you have yourself an interesting movie concept. "Captain Scott Pierce thought his crew would have a routine mission on a safe voyage...little did he know that there are no safe voyages...on 'Tides of Wrath', rated PG-13."

Come on, Hollywood, you have got to start trying harder here. There are many more ideas where that one came from as well. At this point, I would be willing to submit a few ideas (with due royalties) just to reinvigorate the American film industry. Heck, Hollywood could make a movie based on Tomasz Jedruszek's painting, "One Failed Uplift"; even I might go to a movie theater to see that. With turbulent current events and multiple wars, one would think that Hollywood would have a regular treasure trove of ideas -- and film companies choose to present us with options like "50/50" and "Footloose"? Seriously?

You can do better, Hollywood; the American people deserve better.

South Park had an interesting, crude take on Hollywood's recent lackluster film trailers. The one line from South Park's critique of recent movies that stuck with me went, "'ll pay to go see it". Unfortunately, owing to declining box office revenues, perhaps people are not as willing to go see Hollywood's latest faulty flicks.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but Mel Gibson may have the right idea for movies in this time period. Gibson recently revealed that he is working on a film about Judah Maccabee, a famous Jewish hero from the ancient period whose story inspired Chanukah. I (and probably many other Americans) can confidently say that I would pay money to go see a movie about Judah Maccabee; that plotline sounds quite interesting and would be worth seeing in a movie theater.

Even aside from the Biblical context, many Americans today are looking for insightful and uplifting stories to provide them relief from today's woes. You see, Hollywood, this is part of the reason why Americans enjoy movies -- to put aside the issues and problems of the present moment. I personally feel that a film about Judah Maccabee would be quite a breath of fresh air from Hollywood's recent releases.

If Hollywood wants to regain box office revenue, it has to respond to the demands and interests of the audience. This means producing wholesome, meaningful, substantive, and yes, even family-friendly films that people in the market would want to spend their hard-earned money to go see. When the economy is struggling and money is tight, the film industry has to work that much harder to get people to the movie theaters. And okay, so maybe our economy stinks right now -- that doesn't mean our movies have to stink as well.


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