I think it is quite possible that 2014 will go down as the year the Hollywood studios truly had no direction or concept of what they were trying to do.
Let me be clear at the start that I feel most years Hollywood has no idea what it is doing, but 2014 is a spectacular example. Let me break this down for you:
- 2 Biblical films (Noah and Exodus)
- 3 Ancient Greece films (Hercules: The Legend Begins, 300 Rise of an Empire and Hercules)
- 3 Musicals (Jersey Boys, Annie and Into the Woods)
- 3 Sports films (Draft Day, Million Dollar Arm, When the Game Stands Tall and McFarland)
- 3 World War II films (Monuments Men, an untitled Brad Pitt film and Unbroken)
- 5 Young Adult novel adaptation films (Vampire Academy, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)
I can almost hear you saying, “But, Sean, how many sci-fi films? How many comedies?” and so on. And I get that, but this is a list of 19 films coming out this year in genres that are historically tough to crack. All of these films have the potential to do well, but looking over past releases in these film styles, they also have the potential to be monumental flops.
Biblical films have all been chasing the money that was earned by The Passion of the Christ, and that was an anomaly. Yes, it did huge box office, but find me another example of a biblical film doing that well. You can’t. If you go back to the 60s and adjust for inflation you can, but in the modern era? You can’t.
Films set in ancient Greece are a definite mixed bag. Clash of the Titans did decent numbers, but Wrath of the Titans struggled. 300 was a huge hit, but 300 Rise of an Empire looks to be a very different film. There’s something to be said for 300 men holding off an entire army, but a sea battle is a whole different feel and vibe. And two films based on the legend of Hercules in the same year? I really can’t fathom what the studios were thinking.
Oh, musicals. We keep trying to crack this nut again, but this isn’t the Golden Era of Hollywood any more, folks. Rent, Chicago, Les Miserables all did decent numbers, but they didn’t set the box office on fire, and Rock of Ages was a big flop in 2012. Jersey Boys has been a hit on Broadway, but its target audience doesn’t tend to go to the movies. Annie doesn’t need to exist. Period. And Into the Woods has some huge star power to draw people in, but will it be enough?
As more and more time passes, and we have more distance from the horrific events of World War II, the less interest people seem to have in dramatized versions of the events. Of the three on the upcoming slate, only The Monuments Men looks that interesting, and that will rest a lot on the shoulders of the stars such as George Clooney, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Matt Damon.
When it comes to the Young Adult novel adaptations… look. We get what you’re trying to do. You’re all chasing the Harry Potter/Hunger Games dollars, but those had huge numbers as novels and were pretty much household names to begin with. The studios are now searching for the next film series that can copy those successes and, I’m sorry, but you aren’t going to do it with titles your average person hasn’t even heard of. Yes, they have fan bases, but so did The Mortal Instruments and Percy Jackson, and neither of those series haven’t exactly set box office records, and in both cases have lost their studios money.
As I look over 2014, and knowing what is coming in 2015, it’s almost as if the studios said, “Well, we need some time to prep the next set of blockbusters in 2015 and after, what do we have that we can just throw out there in 2014?” Don’t get me wrong, there will be some certifiable hits, but it’s going to be a rough ride this year. We’re going to see a lot of reports of, “Movie X didn’t quite live up to Studio Y’s projections.”
It is clear to me looking over the quarterly break downs I did over the past four days that 2014 is a transition year for the studios. They know that 2015 is going to be huge, and they are using this year to dip their toes in to some genres that have been neglected over the past several years and even decades. Those that succeed this year, you will see them spawn other films in 2016 and 2017 to be sure. There are scripts being drawn up as you read this that will follow along all of these 19 films, but the question is how many of them will ever see the light of day.
My guess? Not that many.
With the year barely even begun, I can tell that this is just not the year for most people. Typically when I look over what is coming up over the next 12 months I will mutter, “Oh man, I want to see that!” many, many times. This year… maybe five times total?
2014, it isn’t going to be pretty folks.