December 6, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 2017 Shows Dip In Summer Box Office

Movie ticket sales fell this summer compared to previous years. That sucks, but not for the reason you think.

I used to do the Gabbing Geek Box Office Report.  I also made it very clear I thought very little of the Gabbing Geek Box Office Report and did what I could to undermine that nonsense.  I don’t care what movies made what.  It’s depressing when you see lackluster movies raking in the dough.

But then something happened, something box office related, that caught my eye.  See, this summer, ticket sales hit an 11 year low.

That was something that caught my eye, and not from the Geekonomics Perspective.  We’ll leave that to people who give a damn about such things who shall remain nameless (never mind:  Ryan and Watson).  I had my own concerns about those numbers going down.

Last summer, during a blabcast on summer lovin’ and hatin’, my hate was for the slate of movies that came out last summer.  Those were some rather mediocre outings, some of which were outright bad, including the rarest of the rare, a boring and uninspired movie directed by Steven Spielberg.  Those items do not often go into the same sentence.

But this summer has been much more satisfying to me.  As the closest Gabbing Geek has to a film critic, I try to go once a week to see at least something.  Sometimes it’s a case of “I saw it so you didn’t have to!” for my one or two readers (hi, Jimmy!).  I don’t get to see everything, but I do see a lot.  But something struck me about this summer.

See, normally the complaint about summer movies is they tend to be big, bloated blockbuster-type films that seem to be mostly sequels and unwanted remakes.  And, to be very fair, there were more than a few of those, with fifth installments for both Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers, plus whatever number Alien: Covenant counts as.  In terms of remakes, well, there was Baywatch.  The other trend these days would be cinematic universes, and while Marvel Films put out a fairly fun Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, there was also the lackluster The Mummy and the downright confused King Arthur.  Both of those movies attempted to create cinematic universes, both probably failed.  The latter, at least, tried an element of a new idea here and there that was closer to what director Guy Ritchie does very well.

But once Transformers came and went in June, then something happened.  Aside from a fun Spider-Man and a fantastic conclusion to the Planet of the Apes trilogy, the movies got, dare I say it?, more creative.  Now, “creative” is not the same as “good,” as there were good things that came out before and bad things that came out after.  Wonder Woman may be the best superhero origin story in ages if not ever, and I would argue is behind only Logan at this point for the best superhero movie of this year.

But creative is daring for Hollywood.  So, let’s consider that this summer saw the release of a heist film that could double as a musical, one of the most freeform animated kids movies in a long time, a war movie playing with time and space to tell the tale of a historic retreat, and Steven Soderbergh’s return to big screens with a rural version of Ocean’s 11.  There was the 80s aesthetic of a punk Cold War-era Berlin of Atomic Blonde, and a more-relevant-than-it-should-be 60s aesthetic for Detroit.  Now, again, there was plenty out there that wasn’t up to snuff or even interesting.  The Dark Tower was disappointing, Valerian the City of a Thousand Planets was dull, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard would have worked fine as a comedy but was rather meh as an action movie.  Essentially, for every above average-or-better Wind River, there was a by-the-numbers-but-still-original Book of Henry.

What does all this have to do with the box office?  Well, here’s the thing:  moviegoers complain that summertime is full of sequels and remakes, but this summer has quite a bit of stuff that didn’t fit those categories, some of it quite good, much of the good a lot more fun than I had for most of last summer, and the ticket sales weren’t there.  What does that mean?  It means Hollywood studios might once again be reluctant to produce more creative stuff like this again, and we may very well go back to the bloated blockbuster big budget sequels and remakes that audiences claim to hate but that somehow sells more tickets anyway.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we can’t have nice things in the multiplex during the summer.