5 predictions from the summer box office trends

So all in all from Hollywood’s perspective this summer wasn’t the smash that studios were collectively hoping for. Or not at least in terms of the one thing studios love above all else: cash. However, even in a summer where total box office was down there’s still a few things we can take from summer. So, in no particular order, here are a few things I think we might expect to see given box office trends from this summer:
  1. The continued rise of female led superhero flicks
More than any other trend, its clear that Wonder Woman has changed the game for comic book movies, as much as Deadpool did last year (and that gave us Logan so definitely not a bad thing!). Although its clear that this trend was already very much underway (see all the gender flipped films in the pipeline), WW has definitely given studio execs a bigger bullseye to aim at. Expect to see every studio try to find their WW tentpole female superhero as the must have accessory for 2018. Marvel has had Captain Marvel (with Brie Larson attached) on the plate for some time, Sony has mooted rumoured plans for a Black Cat and Silver Sable film – expect all the other big studios to have a go at their own take very soon. Despite my cynical tone, I do think this is a great thing, and long overdue. Finally the financial success of a major tentpole film with a female director and star looks like it will be a proper breakthrough for female driven storytelling. This can only be a great thing for finally breaking some long standing glass ceilings in Hollywood.
  1. More films designed purely for overseas audiences
A number of films I’d still deem as flops (because despite okayish box office returns were still garbage) were saved by overseas audiences this summer. The Mummy and Transformers were probably the starkest example of this. So its clear that by shifting some elements of the film, studios can subvert even the poorest domestic box office performance. Expect to see many more awkwardly juxtaposed scenes shot in foreign climes (I’m thinking the China scenes from Transformers: Extinction!) and even more strangely positioned product promotions. The flip side to this is of course that filmmaking is becoming more international than ever, and as such once filmmakers learn to incorporate different cultures in more sensitive and contextually sensible ways, this will end up giving us more diversity. As with number 1, this can only be a good thing.
  1. A few big franchises are on borrowed time
One other key facet of this summer was the underperformance (at least domestically) of a number of long standing world beaters (commercially speaking of course). More specifically I’m thinking of Transformers, Pirates and Alien. We could well see sequels for these put on hold in favour of spinoffs/prequels etc (as is the case with the upcoming Transformers Bumblebee film). With hits like Baby Driver proving popular with audiences, the combination of these tow factors might even give a couple of studios the courage to give some new ideas a try. Of course when I say new ideas, I’m thinking more Baby Driver and less The Emoji Movie.
  1. Big releases could be moved to earlier in the year/summer
6 of this year’s top 10 domestic box-office hits (so far) opened before May 5th. It seems that increasingly the big summer movie season is starting earlier and earlier. Combined with an increasing use of October – December for bigger releases (Thor, Justice League and The Last Jedi) it seems studios are increasingly reluctant to rely on summer to make their biggest splash. Expect this trend to be even more pronounced next year as the strategic power grabs for better audience numbers grow ever more complex.
  1. More films with sensible budgets (apart from the Avatar sequels)
A lot of the big franchise films that flopped did so due to massive expectations and budgets versus a a moviegoing audience who (thanks to Rotten Tomatoes and other review aggregators) who are increasingly less willing to buy into the marketing and go and see a film without reading a review. The budgets of these films meant that even the slightest negativity could have massive financial connotations – with studios being so naturally risk adverse it wouldn’t be surprising to see a modest uptick in the production of films with mid size budgets, more character focused pieces and less in the way of box office expectations.

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