Weekend Box Office Aug. 18-20: Is the film industry imploding?

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August 20th 2017

This big news this summer weekend (and it's going to be boring for the next few weeks) wasn't about a particular film bombing or exceeding expectations, but rather about two recent developments which both came out this week about the business which caused a lot of discussion.

First was the return to filmmaking for director Steven Soderbergh, after a four-year sabbatical to concentrate on painting, with his new independent film, Logan Lucky, which opened this weekend. He and media both touted that this movie could spark a revolution on how films get made and released. The thing is, however, this new business model is jactually just a new version of a decades old model that filmmakers and producers have been doing since the late 1950s.

The deal is that Soderbergh, in order to make his new film, first pre-sold the theatrical international rights to foreign distributors to raise the production money for the film. Then, he pre-sold all the non-theatrical rights (streaming, cable, DVD) to distributors and content providers to get the money for the marketing and distribution of his film. All the actors and major crew people involved worked for scale (i.e. the union wage minimum allowed) in exchange for a percentage of the profits if they are any. It was released in 2500 screens mainly across the South and the Southwest before it opens wider across the country.

The genuinely new addition to his plan was the creation of a website which people can download to see exactly how much was spent on the film, how much money the film has made and most importantly where all that money made goes for total transparency and avoiding any accusations of "Hollywood bookkeeping."

As I previously said, it's an old model to finance films independently, but it's been around for decades though no one has really done it for quite a long while. One could argue that this model was actually started, on a much smaller scale, by the pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Michaeux. In order to raise money to make his films, he would travel around the country making deals with independent theater owners that if they agree to contribute a part of the production money to make his next film in development, then they would be the only exhibitor in their area to exclusively show the finished film. Soderbergh just took that same idea and put in a larger, more international scale.

But the second development could be even more important and troubling in a way is that, as was reported by many sources including the London Telegraph, this summer will prove to be the worse summer box office wise for the industry in perhaps a decade. In fact, the box office summer totals so far already are some 13-15 percent lower than it was last summer in 2016.

Yes, there have been some major box office successes such Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider Man Homecoming, Wonder Woman and more recently Dunkirk and Girls Trip. But they were overshadowed by big box office busts and underperformers too numerous to mention such as Baywatch, The Mummy, The Dark Tower, King Arthur, Valarian, Alien Covenant, Cars 3 ...the list goes on and on. Either too many lousy films and too many tired sequels/remakes, or perhaps just dumb ideas that no one wanted to see.

Needless to, say several people were saying that this could be the first real evidence of that Steven Spielberg speech in which he predicted ofana impending "implosion" which would cripple the industry.

Three years ago, at a speech he gave at the opening of USC School of Cinematic Arts, Speilberg said that "That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."

Despite his warning, it's fair to say that people said that he was being hypocritical since he's one of the very persons who started Hollywood downslide towards its destruction with superhero movies, reboots and sequels with his Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park sequels. Also, don't forget those all those unwatchable Transformers films on which he executive produced. And what is Spielberg's big film for 2018? Ready Player One, yet another film version of the popular video game. Who's going to want to see that?

Yet, despite that, one cannot deny that Spielberg is right and a reckoning is coming. It's not dissimilar to what happened to the industry during 1969-1971 which practically the whole film industry collapsed weighted down by a slew of major big budget box office flops. No one was going to see movies. Things were so bad that one theater chain in New York started "Free Tuesdays" when anyone could see any movie in any of their theaters for free just to get people to come see movies.

But, this downtrend caused Hollywood to change its mind about the kind of films they were making and move to different directions. The result was an endless list of truly great films, some which are masterpieces, made by studios or independently made making the 1970s the last truly great decade of filmmaking. Will something like that happen now? One can only hope.

But getting back to this weekend we'll still in the late summer doldrums which is why Lionsgate's middling action comedy The Hitman's Bodyguard with Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds was No. 1 this weekend, with $21.6 million, no doubted help by a clever promo campaign. Last week's No.1 film Annabelle: Creation dropped 55 percent to second place with $15.5 million. It has made just over $64 million in just two weeks, in addition to doing amazingly well overseas with an additional $97 million internationally.

Logan Lucky,  however, wasn't so' lucky,' coming in third and making just over $8 million this weekend. Though the film has yet to open widely across the country, there's still time to see if Soderbergh's experiment will work.

Girls Trip, after holding very steady for several weeks since it opened, dropped lower than expected to 8th place, but has already cross the $100 million mark domestically and has already grossed $10.6 internationally. Meanwhile, Dunkirk has now crossed over past the half-billion dollar-mark worldwide.

 

Full list:

 

1) The Hitman's Bodyguard LG/S $21,600,000
2) Annabelle: Creation WB (NL) $15,500,000 Total: $64,044,221
3) Logan Lucky BST $8,050,182
4) Dunkirk WB $6,700,000 Total $165,508,079
5) The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature ORF $5,113,278 Total $17,696,923
6) The Emoji Movie Sony $4,350,000 Total $71,767,352
7) Spider-Man: Homecoming Sony $4,250,000 Total $314,051,381
8) Girls Trip Uni. $3,844,030 Total $103,986,175
9) The Dark Tower Sony $3,720,000 Total $41,604,378
10) Wind River Wein. $3,025,236 Total $4,138,505
11) Kidnap Aviron $2,860,000 Total $24,425,683
12) The Glass Castle LGF $2,550,000 Total $9,706,381

by Sergio Mims on August 20th 2017
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