It seems like many are putting their hopes and dreams in Ryan Coogler's film version of Marvel's "Black Panther," when it opens in early 2018, as if the future of black cinema depends on it.
That's too much of a burden on the shoulders of just one film; but it does have one advantage: interest in the film is extremely high. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call "Black Panther" one of the most anticipated films of 2018. And it's different and unique enough to stand out in a very crowded field, which it will need to be, because it might be facing a serious problem: The Great Film Crash of 2018.
According to a recent article on Cracked, 2018 may bring forth the end of the film industry as we currently know it. All evidence points to potentially one of the most financially disastrous years for film studios in decades. The reason? Too many damn tentpole franchise comic book movies, sequels and remakes.
Studios may have placed too much of their success on how well these films do at the box office. So far, they have made a lot of money. Billions in fact. But nothing lasts forever, and it simply can't sustain itself financially or creatively as well.
In fact, some 40 of these type of films, if not more, are scheduled to be released in 2018 - the biggest number ever, in any year. Among them are titles such as "Avengers: Infinity War", "Ready Player One", Pacific Rim 2", "Aquaman", "Toy Story 4", "Deadpool 2", "The Flash", "How To Train Your Dragon 3", "Ant-Man And The Wasp", "Jurassic World 2", "The Predator, "Fifty Shades Freed", "Jungle Book: Origins", "Mary Poppins Returns", "Tomb Raider", "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them 2", "The Secret Life Of Pets 2", an animated "Spider-Man" movie, "Hotel Transylvania 3", "Wreck-It Ralph 2", the "Star Wars" Han Solo spinoff (with Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian) and the "Transformers" Bumblebee spinoff.
And that's just a sampling. In fact, of the 40+ tentpole films set to be released in 2018, half of them will be released within a week of each other. It's so insane that Warner Bros. is actually releasing two tentpole movies on the same weekend.
In this glut, "Back Panther" is scheduled to open on February 16, 2018, sandwiched between "Fifty Shades Freed", the "Predator" reboot and an Untitled Warner Animation Group Project all scheduled for release a week earlier, on February 9; and a week later, on February 23, "Pacific Rim 2" (which John Boyega is starring in).
Pretty nuts right?
And when you look at July alone, within a span of 2 weeks, there's "Ant-Man and the Wasp", "The Secret Life of Pets 2", "Alita: Battle Angel", "Mission: Impossible 6", an Untitled DC Comics/Warner Bros superhero film still to be announced, and a Dreamworks Animations film also still to be announced.
Now imagine this kind of traffic jam of tentpole releases happening throughout the entire year. Anyone can see the problem here. There are simply not enough fanboys, fangirls or even just regular filmgoers on the planet who want to watch these films every single week. And we're not even adding the non-tentpole movies that make up the rest of the releases throughout the year. Many of them will likely get lost in the shuffle, and studios will become increasingly reluctant to make more modestly budgeted original films which have statistically a much batter chance to be highly profitable.
On top of that, these tentpole franchise movies aren't cheap to make, costing anywhere from $150-300 million each, meaning that they have to gross anywhere from $500 to $800 million worldwide just to break even. In other words, some of these films are going to be box office busts; they all can't be hits.
It all goes back to what Steven Spielberg said three years ago in a speech, when he predicted that the film industry would come face to face with an "implosion" that would be "inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever". Although, maybe the good news if that does happen is that it could force studios to make smaller budgeted, and more adult films.
Of course, when Spielberg's words spread throughout the industry, many pointed at himself and George Lucas, who also agreed and made similar predictions, as being hypocrites, since one could argue that they are the filmmaker who started the whole tentpole franchise craze back in the 1970's.
But there have been signs of what's coming ahead, when you look that titles like "X Men: Apocalypse", "Independence Day: Resurgence", "The Legend of Tarzan" and "Star Trek: Beyond", all released this past summer, and were box office busts, even when you add in the overseas box totals.
However, as I mentioned before, "Black Panther" has an advantage that it's certainly different from the others, and fresh, and has a shot to make a dent; or perhaps Marvel will move its release date to a more favorable slot. But the fact remains that it's got a tough road ahead of itself due to studio greed and lack of foresight.