2012 Box office recovery depends on high quality movies

Box office takings were down 4% in 2011 for the US domestic market after a bumper ride on the back end of global phenomenon ‘Avatar’. 2011 was muted, and films underperformed particularly on the Thanksgiving weekend which is a huge audience draw, and came as a big disappointment to theatres.

Harrison Ford in 'Cowboys and Aliens'


Reviewing some of the Box Office flops, a lot of the worst performing titles for studios in 2011 had a pre-existing ‘character’ history or similarities to other movies we’ve already seen. ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford tied two leading men in a the kind of ‘Alien Vs Predator’ style remix of the wild west meets Men in Black. It looks catchy as a one liner, but we’ve seen Indiana Jones trilogy, and Men in Black 1 and 2, and well, this just felt like a combination of other movies.

Schwarzenegger guaranteed controversy when he revealed he had fathered a love child, but this was not enough to resurrect a movie starring Jason Momoa entitled ‘Conan the Barbarian’. It was obvious that this movie didn’t need to be seen. Fans of Schwarzenegger would have unlikely flocked to support a Schwarzeneggerless muscle bound hero with zero cult classic status, in a movie that even diehard Arnie fans will have practically forgotten. 10 years too late in my view and why not Patrick Schwarzenegger?

Universal’s announcement to remake ‘The Thing’ was a big disappointment. Not only was the Kurt Russell original an absolute classic, but remaking it to fit a modern audience didn’t add significant desire for fans to go back and ‘watch it again in a whole new setting’.

Johnny Depp’s unstoppable box office power with Pirates of The Caribbean 4 was essentially demolished when ‘The Rum Diary’ hit theatres in late October. It showed promise but in truth Hunter S Thompson’s already well known character in this movie didn’t enthuse fans to head to theatres. ‘Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas’ was a classic, and a hugely enjoyable movie, but we’ve had enough of cocaine, alcohol fuelled characters with absurd one-liners.

Each of these movies had a past, with characters we’ve already seen, concepts and genres already cross mixed, and remakes not enticing enough for fans of original movies to care.

It would seem that franchise fatigue has transitioned into ‘character fatigue’ and similar stories we’ve seen time and time again have made a string of movies fail in 2011. Studios are struggling to come up with new concepts, new scripts, original movies. Sequels are far too high in number, and there seems to be in my view ,a lack of investment in new writing talent. It’s inevitable that if the quality of your product continues to fall, so will the demand of it’s audience.

It’s a wake up call, for studios and the industry as a whole. Film quality has to go up. We need a new golden age for storytelling, with character’s we’ve not seen before. 3D should not be used as a concept either to make money. Special effects are losing their novelty, and story must come first.

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