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Lets be honest, this summer film season is tanking hard and it’s time the studios realize this.
There was a time when the movie studios ruled the summer months. It was a trade-off with television, to be honest. In the summer kids are out of school and have more time to leave the house so the theaters would fill up and TV would hit reruns so no one missed anything.
There, however, has been a seismic shift in how we consume entertainment, and it seems everyone knows it but movie studios. With the advent of DVRs, streaming video and on-demand, people now watch TV whenever they want. Some save an entire season of a show to consume during the summer months. June to August have become the months where people catch up on other forms of entertainment instead of heading to the theaters.
And yet, the studios somehow think that those magical weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day in the U.S. still are the most important. That we must cram every major film into that tiny window and let them cut each other’s throats for all those sweet summer dollars.
The thing is, the studios are discovering this summer that those sweet summer dollars are gone.
As of July 11, domestic box office for the year sat at $2.29 billion compared to $2.49 billion in 2016. The number of trainwrecks at the domestic box office is quickly piling up with Transformers The Last Knight, Cars 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales all being disasters. The foreign box office is up two percent for the year, but that isn’t going to come close to covering the shortfalls of the domestic numbers.
People are not going to the theater in the numbers they used to, and they are also growing tired of stale ideas. While those are all important pieces of the overall puzzle, I think a good chunk of it really boils down to people’s habits. And as an example of this, lets look at Disney.
Now, yes, two of the three flops this summer I listed above are from the House of Mouse, but it also releases so many movies a year that some have to fall in the summer. Where I would point you, though, is Marvel and Star Wars specifically. Thor: Ragnarok is heading to theaters in November. Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits in December. Both of these movies, in the old days should be in the summer, but Disney has discovered certain properties can go any time and people will still see them.
But even Disney apparently can fall into old traps because as of 2019 it is moving the Star Wars films out of December and into May release windows.
Why? It makes no sense! Disney is obliterating the December numbers and making for a healthy fourth quarter for the entire industry, and now it wants to move into the same battlefield as the also rans? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Add in that the Han Solo movie is slated to hit theaters a mere three weeks after Avengers Infinity War and it’s as if the studio wants to compete with itself.
The only potential theory I can come up with is that Disney wants to so strongly dominate those weeks that it wants nothing else to even have a chance, and even that is hard for me to reason out.
There are nine other months out of the year. It’s time for the movie studios to realize this and stop turning the summer into a bloodbath because all they are doing is hurting themselves. It’s time to analyze what the consumers want, not what the studios think they want.