Box Office

Summer box office bummer: Hollywood weathers 'Ben-Hur' and other film flops

Kevin McCarthy gives his take

 

Hollywood is buzzing about how many movies have bombed this summer—even though ticket sales are actually up from last year at this time.

In just the latest box office disaster, the remake of "Ben-Hur," which cost $100 million to produce, took in only $11.4 million in the U.S. this weekend, finishing in fifth place amongst new movie releases.

"This is the bomb of the summer,” Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, declared to Variety.

But "Ben-Hur" isn't the only epic fail. Proving that Americans aren't impressed with much of Hollywood's summer slate, there have been multiple flops, including the "Ghostbusters" remake, "Alice Through The Looking Glass," "Star Trek Beyond," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," "Independence Day: Resurgence," "The Legend of Tarzan," "Warcraft," "X Men: Apocalypse", and the Steven Spielberg directed fantasy, "The BFG."

Still, as The Wrap just reported, North American ticket sales are up 2.84 percent over 2015 receipts at this time. The films have cumulatively earned an astounding $4.14 billion domestic in figures calculated from 108 days after the first Friday in May until Aug. 22. 

"This summer suffered from the problem of perception versus reality,” Paul Dergarabedian of comScore told The Wrap.

However, Dergarabedian earlier had told The Hollywood Reporter that the summer of 2016 had been "a bit of a bummer, with the underperformers outnumbering the overperformers and a general malaise…."

Are potential moviegoers simply frustrated with seeing more of the same?

Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, said, "This has definitely been a rough summer for remakes and sequels."

Especially the all-female "Ghostbusters" reboot.

Through this past weekend, "Ghostbusters" reportedly had taken in $123.9 million domestically, but that isn't enough considering its massive $250 million price tag.

Online haters didn't like the beloved 1984 Dan Aykroyd/Bill Murray film made into an all-girl comedy and blasted the "Ghostbusters" trailer before the movie premiered.

Once it did, it played to small crowds. Moviegoer Rachel Chunglo tweeted, "What is going on! Empty theatre for #Ghostbusters on opening day!?!?"

But to be fair, analysts say "Ghostbusters," as well as "Star Trek Beyond," were successful enough to add to the overall big summer Hollywood total.

Although movies often make up money when you add worldwide receipts, there were other dismal domestic numbers through this Sunday.

As Box Office Mojo estimates: "Alice Through The Looking Glass" couldn't match the first Johnny Depp starrer "Alice in Wonderland," taking in just $77 million with a $170 budget; "Star Trek Beyond" had disappointing receipts of $146.9 million compared to its $185 budget; "Independence Day: Resurgence" underwhelmed by making $102.8 million after its $165 budget; "The Legend of Tarzan" hasn't caused audiences to yell, earning $125.4 million compared to its $180 million budget; "Warcraft" showed little gamesmanship, ringing up just $47.2 million on a $160 million budget; "X Men: Apocalypse" was expected to do much better as it cost $178 million but so far has only taken home $155.4 million in the U.S.; and "The BFG," has lumbered away with a measly $53.9 million after being made for $140 million.

Meanwhile, critics are weighing in on why there have been so many film flops.

"Studios keep spending too much money," Moviepilot critic Jack Carr claimed. 

He wrote that movies that became hits were often more tightly budgeted (such as "The Conjuring 2"), and/or well-written and receiving good reviews (such as Disney films like "Finding Dory" and Captain America: Civil War"): "Quality usually wins out."

Why are other summer bummers not motivating moviegoers?

The Wrap said it might be as simple as a confusing acronym title for "The BFG," which stood for "The Big Friendly Giant." Also, is Spielberg slipping? The famed director "hasn’t had a 'Jaws' or 'E.T.'-level hit as a director in several years," The Wrap noted. 

Jordan Hoffman, of The Guardian, wrote that "The Legend of Tarzan ends up being a garbled, clunky production that tries to please everyone and ends up pleasing no one."

Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang, who is Christian, complained about the clichéd depiction of faith in the new "Ben-Hur." 

Chang wrote that Jesus is played "by a hunky Brazilian actor named Rodrigo Santoro….[who] randomly pops up in scenes like a veritable Christ-in-the-box, at once point even doing some carpentry as he lectures Judah with a mouthful of New Testament platitudes."

Compared to that, the 1959 William Wyler directed version starring Charlton Heston "hails from a bygone era of superior Hollywood craftsmanship."

But Hollywood bigwigs are hailing summer's cumulative domestic receipts, up from last summer thanks to the success of films such as "Suicide Squad," which had the biggest opening ever for an August release.

Still, all is not lost because many films recoup or surpass their production costs through foreign box office and DVDs.

And receipts are expected to set a record this month thanks to the success of films such as "Suicide Squad," which had the biggest opening ever for an August release.

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