Summer Is a Bummer at the Box Office

Tuesday, 04 Sep 2012 11:12 AM

By James Hirsen

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Economic storm clouds hovered over the movie business as the summer season ended.

Things looked promising enough last spring, when many in Hollywood were anticipating the best movie season that they would have in years.

Instead the 2012 summer as a whole became a mirror that reflected how deeply the economic doldrums had taken root in the film business.

Hollywood had good reason to feel upbeat a few months back, when it looked as though the box office take would best the 2011 one by double-digit percentages based on the number of superhero studio blockbusters that were on the roster.

The summer movie season, which began the first weekend of May and ended on Labor Day, took in this year roughly $4.25 billion. That figure is almost three percentage points lower than the mediocre numbers of last summer, according to Exhibitor Relations.

A tumble of the summer gross from one year to the next has not occurred in seven years, and the slip and fall took place despite higher ticket prices and 3-D surcharges.

Unfortunately, the bad news keeps on coming. In addition to shrinking box-office revenues, viewing audiences have evidently shriveled up as well. The tally of total audience that purchased summer movie tickets went down 4 percent from the summer of 2011 and was the smallest since the early 1990s, according to

Some of the superheroes weren’t exactly slackers. In early May, “The Avengers” debut broke records, hauling in $207.4 million.

“The Avengers,” which ended up taking in $620 million, and “The Dark Knight Rises,” which landed at $433 million, together accounted for 25 percent of the industry’s summer total, with more than $1 billion in domestic box-office bucks.

Other summer hits bolstered the summer standing as well, with the “Spider-Man” reboot, “Ted,” “Brave,” and “Madagascar 3” all topping $200 million.

However, it was the failures that really robbed Hollywood of its summer fun. Big-budget “Battleship” cost a whopping $200 million but ended up with disappointing numbers for Universal Studios, at $300 million in total revenue.

The summer of 2012 may be remembered as star power’s last gasp. The “Total Recall” remake, which starred Colin Farrell, left movie audiences longing for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Tom Cruise couldn’t draw filmgoers to see “Rock of Ages,” either.

Other movies that dragged down the box-office levels were Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron’s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy,” Johnny Depp’s “Dark Shadows,” Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn’s “The Watch,” and Sacha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator.”

Also failing to get box-office traction were the best-selling mash-up book adaptation “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and the “Alien” prequel “Prometheus.”

Hollywood is facing a host of problems. The entertainment industry is typically slow to adapt to changing technology. It frequently holds beliefs contrary to its customers. And many within the entertainment community are speaking in ways and acting in roles that alienate the general public and impair the brand.

Executives in the entertainment business are trying to cope with the risks by delivering more sequels, remakes, and reboots, which may not be terribly original but at least it puts popcorn on the table.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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