This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Have Blockbusters Fallen Flat?

This summer was supposed to be BIG: Star Trek, Transformers, X-men Origins: Wolverine, Angels and Demons, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Movie houses were orgasmic with delight at the summer line-up. The studios had convinced them that this summer was going to explode like a bushel of popcorn kernels and rake in money for both the studios and exhibitors. But now that summer is melting into fall, it's evident that these summer blockbusters have mostly fallen flat-- like a cake without leavening.

For all of these movies, the prospects were good. Young men, teenagers were the prime targets-- hence all the action adventure and guy-oriented flicks. A few family films were thrown into the mix with a chick flick or two-- to keep the girls entertained, as studio executives must've surmised.

There was a certain level of hype for Star Trek (one of the best reviewed of the bunch) and X-men was HUGE for all of 3 days-- until word got out that it wasn't all that good. Even with several different endings attached to prints being viewed across the nation, X-men died a quick death as if by electric chair-- momentarily electrifying then completely unresponsive. A few weeks later, it had shriveled away completely. Transformers leapt into the air and landed back on the ground as scrap metal-- many audiences decided they didn't want to pay cash for that clunker.

These movies made money, but certainly not as much as the advanced hype and forecasting predicted. Even in overseas markets, these films weren't blasting through as much as studios had intended-- especially considering the films' collective costs. The blockbusters were longer-- and oddly less engaging. Transformers hit theatres with a runtime of 147 minutes. It was if Michael Bay was saying: Take that Christopher Nolan, my action pic can be just as long as your Dark Knight. Even Harry Potter was lengthy: 153 minutes (2 hours 33 minutes), topping even that of Transformers.

Is this what audiences want? Increasingly, I don't think so. I know it's not what I want. For one, I can't sit there that long. After the 2 hour mark, I start squirming-- my attention wanders and I'm ready to move on, get up, stretch. I'm also tired of action adventures catering to men and the young when alternatives for other audiences-- namely women and the more sophisticated moviegoers amount to no more than stereotypical chick flicks and independent art films that never get enough distribution to even reach their intended audiences (especially in smaller markets.)

From what I've observed at the film exhibition level, audiences are bored... and far more critical of film fare than they've been in the past. CGI and action-adventure acrobotics are no longer really all that impressive. People seem to be tired with more and bigger and complicated or non-existent plots. They're leaning toward simpler fare with story and character and situations that we could imagine happening to us. Audiences are spending more time thinking about life, the economy, the environment. No marketing, franchising, merchandising or pyrotechnics can boost a movie's box office mojo if audiences just don't give a shit anymore.

Attention Studios: Perhaps the era of blockbusters have gone the way of supersizing.

Now, G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra is set to open 8/7. Today, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount has decided not to screen the film for critics. Only time will tell-- but this is usually a bad sign especially for an expensive film that's supposed to launch a new franchise. If G.I. Joe, too, falls flat perhaps there is hope that the cake will rise with Julie & Julia. For if there's anyone who knows about leavening and the ingredients for success, it would be Julia Child. And with that, there's potential for a sleeper hit as we approach the downslope of the 2009 film slate.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

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