The Canada Day and Fourth of July weekends have now passed and we have seen the release of most of the big action-packed blockbuster films for this summer. As always it started in late May with the release of Iron Man 3 (written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black) which was quickly followed by Star Trek Into Darkness (written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof) and it continued from there.
Recently George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had a discussion about the future of the blockbuster. While you can find the conversation on the web I’ll summarize their thoughts. The two biggest name in today’s Hollywood have predicted that that same very Hollywood will soon “implode” changing “…the shape of the film industry forever and lead to dramatically hiked ticket prices for blockbuster films.” These are the same two men who back in the 1980’s created the summertime blockbuster with the release of their films (Empire Strikes Back, E.T., etc.). The two predict that there will be two levels of ticket prices; a extremely high price for blockbusters and a much lower price for ‘regular’ films (Spielberg mentions his Lincoln at this point). What’s interesting is that before this two-tier pricing comes into play, the two say it will begin with a rapid succession of failed blockbusters. No details on how rapid, but looking at the last couple of years it can be said that it may have begun.
The biggest film of 2012 was Marvel’s Avengers (written by Joss Whedon) as it grossed $207.4 million in it’s first weekend and $623,357,910 as of April 27, 2013 (all numbers domestic numbers as listed on imdb.com). While the year’s biggest flop is considered John Carter (written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon) which grossed $30.1 million on it’s opening weekend and as of April 29, 2013 just $69,219,949. John Carter‘s estimated budget was $250 million.
The Lone Ranger (written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) had an estimated budget of $250 million and over it’s opening weekend it has grossed $48 million and as of this writing it is on track to lose nearly $150 million dollars. I think the problem is not the blockbuster status but rather the size of the budget for these films. By approving a $250 million budget that is asking a lot from the audience. To earn a return of the the film’s budget the production company needs to count on amazing word of mouth as well as a high level of repeat business. The Man of Steel (written by David S. Goyer) has enjoyed both to a tune of $271.2 million dollars (as of July 5, 2013) earning more than it’s $225 million budget.
While I think it’s odd that Spielberg and Lucas, the two men who created the summer blockbuster, are now saying that the summer blockbuster is going to change how people see movies in the future, I’m starting to see their point. Production companies are allowing their budgets get out of control and they’re going to lose a lot of money. Just look at Disney. Between John Carter and The Lone Ranger Disney has lost $383 million and I don’t think any production company can continue loosing that kind of money for very long.