Universal’s summer comedy Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping cost $20 million and grossed just $9.5 million. Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply flamed out with $3.7 million. And Sony’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk topped out at a scant $1.7 million domestically despite director Ang Lee’s previous film, Life of Pi, having grossed $600 million worldwide.
Those unusually weak performances for studio wide releases epitomize the alarming widening of the gap between films that work and those that don’t, even as North American revenue hit another record high with $11.36 billion between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, a 2.1 percent uptick from 2015’s historic $11.14 billion. (Attendance was flat at 1.3 billion.) “2016 was about higher highs and lower lows,” says Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster. “We’re finding that if midlevel movies, as well as certain blockbusters, can’t show the goods, they can get clobbered in a weekend to the point of being obsolete and gone by Monday. There used to be a threshold a movie could maintain even if it didn’t work.”
Case in point: Only 26 titles in 2016 crossed $100 million domestically, the fewest in a decade. A slew of massive bombs — including Ben-Hur, Gods of Egypt, Allied and The Finest Hours — lost more than $1 billion. At the same time, China’s growth slowed from 48 percent in 2015 to a scary 3.7 percent. There were “periods of booming business, followed by crushing slowdowns, sequelitis and the increasing influence of social media,” says analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore.
Disney commanded an unprecedented 26.4 percent of North American market share thanks to Zootopia, Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Moana. Warner Bros. rebounded, and Sony and Paramount continued to fare poorly. Never before has the disparity in market share been so great. “In this first year that all five of our major film brands [Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, Disney live action and Disney Animation Studios] delivered a film, we saw a focus on quality storytelling with global appeal,” says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. “Our seven big films averaged 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and each had CinemaScores in the A range.”
Indeed, with social media dictating word-of-mouth and moviegoers becoming savvier to review aggregators, critics have found renewed relevance. “The why does seem to come down mostly to reviews,” says Howard Cohen of Roadside Attractions. “Now movies need rave reviews, and there is less margin for error.”
This story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
(Source: Box Office Mojo)
(Source: Box Office Mojo)