There’s something magical about summer. Backyard grills, relaxing with friends, studios pushing the boundaries of what’s even theoretically profitable by throwing as much money as they can at the craziest kook they can find who knows how to operate a camera, thinking that they’ll make it all back.
The first Blockbusters were simply movies that made a ton of money — epics that really spoke to a lot of people like Gone with the Wind and The Ten Commandments. The first movie to establish blockbusters as a category of movie instead of a category of profitability was 1975’s Jaws. This was primarily due to the film’s marketing — it pioneered heavily in tie-in merchandise and television commercials. Jaws wasn’t just a movie, it was a cultural event.
A can’t-miss event. Everyone would be there. Everyone. Much like we’ll go to see the third Hobbit not because we think it’ll be good, but because it will be inevitable, much like social media turns specialized social issues into something everyone simply has to weigh in on, Jaws was a universal experience.
The June 1975 movie turned an $8 million budget into more than $470 million, and that’s all she wrote. The full force of Hollywood has been behind trying to recreate this success ever since, and because marketing is a repeatable skill, they’ve had a significant degree of success.
Behind the imbecilic idea that a bigger budget would yield a bigger profit, budgets have increased over the years, and blockbuster season has become more and more crowded. The industry is now fully addicted to taking these massive gambles. Instead of carefully plying through all the scripts that could be given the blockbuster treatment, they’re throwing ludicrous amounts of money at as many things as they can afford to. They’re so addicted that, instead of backing off these gambles when they started to become untenable, they cheesed the odds and doubled down, focusing on established stars and directors and series and even less on the potential quality of the film. Instead of being good, or even looking like they might be good, modern blockbusters simply look like they’ve had a lot of money stuffed into them, and studios can’t seem to figure out where all the profits have gone.
The entropy of the system was already apparent. Hollywood has created a cinematic bubble, and it’s crashing. It takes a few cycles for everything to catch up, but blockbuster season has been getting worse and worse every year, and soon, viewers will catch up. In 2014 they reaped one of the most boring summers on record, with exactly two good movies coming out between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And, until that bubble completely crashes, it’s only going to get worse.
May 26- Maleficent … Remake of 1959 classic in the dark tone of new films such as Snow White and the Huntsman and Alice in Wonderland starring Angelina Jolie … Turned a $180 million budget into $239 million domestic … Film drew in a massive family audience and may have benefited from controversy over whether or not an early sequence was a rape scene. The movie also performed spectacularly overseas, making just 30 percent of its money in the U.S.
A Million Ways to Die in the West … Written, directed by and starring Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. This was his second feature after 2012’s massively successful Ted … Turned a $40 million budget into $42 million domestic … Film did not perform as expected. Though audiences were enthusiastic for Ted, this was generally viewed as a vanity piece by MacFarlane. It totally was, but so was Ted and everybody loved that movie.
June 3- The Fault in Our Stars … Based on massively popular 2012 teen cancer romance novel by John Green … Turned a $12 million budget into $124 million domestic … Was always going to be successful due to the book’s following, even if it was a novel that could never fully be recreated.
Edge of Tomorrow … Traditional blockbuster based on a popular Japanese short story starring Tom Cruise … Turned $178 million into $100 million … Film suffered from competition and Cruise’s tired brand. Strong word of mouth for what is an extremely well-made movie couldn’t save it from an opening weekend flop, but the film sold strong in foreign markets, with its domestic gross being only a quarter of the total.
June 10- 22 Jump Street … Sequel to the film adaptation of popular 1980s television series starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill … Turned $65 million into $190 million … Solid advertising lead to a good run.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 … Sequel to the film adaptation of popular contemporary children’s book series, which was also adapted into a television show during the intervening period … Turned $145 million into $174 million … film calamitously underperformed, making less money than the first movie despite a dearth of any competition for another month. It was also saved by the foreign market, as it made only 30 percent of its cash in the U.S.
June 17- Jersey Boys … Clint Eastwood-directed adaptation of Tony Award-winning musical … Turned $40 million into $46 million … Advertising did this movie no favors, and poor word of mouth sunk it.
Think Like a Man Too … Sequel to a movie based on a 2009 relationship book by known idiot Steve Harvey … Turned $24 million into $65 million … Film was propped up by black audiences, as it was one of the only movies of the summer to focus on a minority cast … that’s the wrong “too” in the title, it should be “two.”
June 24- Transformers: Age of Extinction … Third sequel to the 2007 movie based on a toy line, of all things, despite the first two sequels being critically panned, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael Bay … Turned $210 million into $244 million … Was a smash hit in China, earning only 22 percent of its total gross at the domestic office.
July 2- Tammy … Original comedy vehicle for Melissa McCarthy … Turned $20 million into $84 million … Surprisingly decent performance.
Deliver Us from Evil … Horror show based on a true story starring Eric Bana … Turned $30 million into $30.5 million … Was expected to perform similarly to 2013’s The Conjuring, which was similarly placed in the middle of a summer light on horror movies, but did nothing to match that movie’s extensive marketing campaign.
Earth to Echo … Found-footage remake of E.T. … Turned $13 million into $38 million … Movie never looked very good. All July 4 weekend releases didn’t look like they would suffer from competition from each other or Transformers, but they did end up suffering from what would be the lowest-grossing July in 25 years.
July 8- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes … Sequel to the reboot of a five-movie series from the late ’60s and ’70s, uses “of the” twice in the title … Turned $170 million into $206 million … Out-grossed its predecessor, but audiences may get franchise fatigue just from saying this movie’s name.
July 18- Planes: Fire and Rescue … Sequel to the spin-off of the only disliked Disney Pixar movie ever made, starring Dane Cook as the lead voice. We get this, but The Incredibles 2 was only just announced … Turned $50 million into $58 million … was part of a large July 18 dump of movies that never looked good.
Sex Tape … Original comedy reuniting the stars and director from Bad Teacher … Turned $40 million into $38 million … Film was extremely poorly advertised. Not as funny after The Fappening.
The Purge: Anarchy … Sequel to the 2013 movie that nobody really liked … Turned $9 million into $71 million … Part of a new wave of horror movies that are awful, but still make a ton of money because they’re cheap. Basically the reverse-blockbuster.
July 22- Hercules … Based on the Radical Comics limited series Hercules: The Tracian Wars starring Dwayne Johnson … Turned $100 million into $71 million … Another week passes, and Hollywood dumps another load of movies they never seemed to have any faith in. This was the second unique Hercules movie released in 2014. Johnson tried his hardest to market for this, but to no avail.
Lucy … Original action movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman … Turned $40 million into $121 million … Movie performed very well, despite negative reviews and being truly awful.
Aug. 1- Guardians of the Galaxy … The TENTH movie in Marvel’s lumbering, ultra-profitable colossus of a film franchise … Turned $170 million into $297 million and counting … Proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that repetitive, tired sequels and nonsensical, un-seeded premises can still turn a large profit, and yea, can still be wonderful, engaging movies. Is still the no. 1 movie in America.
Aug. 8- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … The third original film adaptation of the 1980s comic book franchise, produced by Michael Bay … Turned $125 million into $175 million … Film took the top spot away from Guardians for a couple of weeks, but needed to hold on longer to turn a significant profit. Nobody really had faith in Bay to create a good adaptation of the weirdly beloved franchise.
Into the Storm … Found footage disaster movie … Turned $50 million into $44 million … Critically panned, poorly advertised and up against two massively popular blockbusters, it was daft to release this movie.
The Hundred-Foot Journey … What was this about, again? … Turned $22 million into $46 million, somehow … Nobody cared about this movie.
Aug. 13- Let’s Be Cops … Original mid-life crisis comedy about impersonating police for fun … Turned $17 million into $68 million … Not as funny after the Michael Brown shooting.
Aug. 15- The Expendibles 3 … Second sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 novelty movie that people only watched out of pity … Turned $90 million into $37 million … Stallone might actually be as stupid as he sounds after going through with this.
The Giver … Adaptation of a 1993 teen novel that was extremely popular in 1993 … Turned $25 million into $38 million … Copied several aesthetics from Hunger Games and other recent teen movies, and was indeed only made because of those movies’ success. Those movies were only successful because of Harry Potter, and the book’s popularity ended when Harry Potter came along to replace it, so we seem to have come full circle. For some reason, Taylor Swift is in this movie.
Aug. 22- If I Stay … Adaptation of popular teen romance novel that swaps vampires out for ghosts … Turned $11 million into $40 million … Impressive gross a result of reverse-blockbuster mentality.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill for … Sequel to the 2005 smash-hit adaptation of Frank Miller’s early ’90s pulp noir vignettes … Turned $65 million into $13 million … Got caught in production Hell and came out nine years after the first movie. Regression is sad, but it was a much lesser film.
Aug. 27- The November Man … James Bond lite starring former Bond Pierce Brosnan based on the 1987 novel There are no Spies, which is the seventh book in the November Man series … Turned $15 million into $19 million … Well, they Bonded as hard as they could, but there were other movies that were also Bonding their hardest as well. This movie needed to Bond harder, and maybe replace Brosnan with Daniel Craig.
Aug. 29- As Above, So Below … Found footage horror … Turned $5 million into $16 million … This movie suuucked.