Another poor summer for the box office

How the movie industry is struggling and why there is no sign of change coming soon

Shane Ostrom, Contributing Writer

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I recently watched “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in theatres, and I was less than impressed with it. My discord does not stem from the acting, visuals or even the story; rather, it stems from the commercialization of movies which has become so severe that it negatively affects the quality of the film and the audience.

Of course there will always be bad movies, but over the past couple years, almost every single release has flopped. This pattern damages the viewer’s overall attitude towards the film industry. It seems as if audiences have been conditioned to expect terrible movies, are given terrible movies and leave unperturbed because the terrible movie they just watched was exactly what they expected.

In the new Spider-Man film, Iron Man actually takes on the father figure of teenage Peter Parker, bequeathing the high-tech spider suit to him. Towards the end of the film, Iron Man suggests that Spider-Man may be the next member of the Avengers and I audibly groaned. Another entire Marvel re-image that was made solely to set the stage for more cross-overs. This is what I mean by the over-commercialization of movies — they  are no longer made to tell a great story; rather they are made to enable more possibilities to make money.

When I was young, crossovers seemed so special. I remember how astounded I was watching the Rugrats run into the Thornberrys in “Rugrats Go Wild,” as if the characters from my two favorite shows actually happened upon each other in another universe. Now, fictional universes are so expansive that they are too busy for audiences to comprehend or appreciate and are created as a platform for several combinations of stand-alone and crossover movies. DC  plans to release new movies like “Wonder Woman” to set the stage for “Justice League” to hit theatres in November. Coincidence?

Producers in the film industry have had writer’s block for years. Almost every movie released is a sequel, remake or based on a book. Releases for 2017 include the third installment in the Percy Jackson series, the sixth Transformers, the eighth Fast and Furious, a follow-up to the first seven Saw movies, the sixth Alien — not counting “Alien vs. Predator” —  the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean and remakes of “Beauty and the Beast,” Stephen King’s “IT” and “Power Rangers.”

On the other hand, original movies have been  so mundane that it is hard to believe they were made at all. “The Emoji Movie” recently premiered and has maintained a metascore of 12, according to IMDB and while “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” performed better than expected, it already set itself up for failure in the future by implying there will be more than one ‘epic movie’. It seems as if Hollywood’s longstanding joke of not having any ideas is becoming a very real and unfortunate reality.

At first, I thought that I was simply getting too old and too busy to enjoy movies, but it seems like I am not alone. The biggest box office drop-off in modern times was in 2014 when revenue dropped 14 percent — that is, until this year which, according to Forbes, dropped nearly 16 percent since last year. Meanwhile, the average ticket price has increased steadily.

Perhaps the declining interest in theatres does reflect a declining interest in movies, but while the film industry sinks, television has entered a new golden era of programming.

Services like Netflix and Hulu offer entire seasons of well-produced   content, including critically acclaimed originals that are accessible at home or on mobile devices, anytime and for a lower monthly payment than the price of a single movie ticket.

The ease of streaming outweighs traveling to a theatre so many times over that one would really only go for the novelty of the theatre. In fact, when I went to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” I was much more excited for the popcorn than the film itself.

This dismissal of the box office and absence of extensive previews on streaming services have made it quite easy to just forget about films and replace them with television shows.

After all, more and more movies have been produced to set the stage for sequels, similar to how television series function, though television works better by this dynamic since episodes are released more consistently, contain more content per season and are more accessible. This seems only natural as the prime consumers of media now prefer larger quantities of content with less overall duration, as in Facebook videos, Snapchat and Instagram stories, Youtube videos and Vine clips in recent years.

I would love to eat my words and see a great groundbreaking film —  the box office is terribly overdue for one — but until then I must solemnly conclude that films are becoming obsolete in a world that demands immediate gratification and accessibility.

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