Hollywood Suffers Worst Summer Box Office In A Decade

Aug 30, 2017
Originally published on August 30, 2017 5:56 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

2017 has been a record year in Hollywood, but it's not a good record. This has been the worst summer at the box office in a decade. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports even hits like "Wonder Woman" and the latest "Guardians Of The Galaxy" could not save a summer of flops.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: To be clear, we've seen some terrific movies this summer. Still, films like "Girls Trip," "Baby Driver" and "The Big Sick" are not exactly tent poles.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNKIRK")

FIONN WHITEHEAD: (As Tommy) Where's the bloody air force?

ULABY: Even the epic World War II drama "Dunkirk," already getting buzz for best picture, was not enough to rescue a box office down 16 percent over last summer. This is partly due to what we can only call sucky sequels about mummies or...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES")

JAVIER BARDEM: (As Captain Salazar) Pirates.

ULABY: Few people it seems were that invested in the ongoing travails of Captain Jack Sparrow of the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" or even the big, noisy robots of "Transformers." But these movies still made plenty of money abroad, says media analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN: Yeah, well, the international marketplace is different than North America. The novelty factor I think of these big, bombastic American-made films - that hasn't worn off. Although, we are seeing a little erosion of that popularity.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WOLF WARRIOR 2")

WU JING: (As Leng Feng, foreign language spoken).

ULABY: Partly because places like China are coming up with massive summer blockbusters of their own. A fast-paced action movie called "Wolf Warrior 2" has made about as much money worldwide as anything the U.S. produced this summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WOLF WARRIOR 2")

DERGARABEDIAN: A good movie is a good movie anywhere, and a terrible movie is pretty much a terrible movie no matter where you find it.

ULABY: And that's why relying on subpar sequels to be international hits is not a smart long-term studio strategy, Dergarabedian suggests. Even though this summer's box office has tanked, he says Hollywood need not panic.

DERGARABEDIAN: This is a cyclical business. It's going to come back. We - every few years, we go through one of these big downturns, and everyone proclaims that the - you know, the movie theater is over. That's not going to happen.

ULABY: Just in the next few months, we'll see the new "Blade Runner 2049"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLADE RUNNER 2049")

HARRISON FORD: (As Rick Deckard) You're a cop. I had your job once.

ULABY: ...and "Justice League" and the new "Thor" movie and the latest "Star Wars" plus all those Oscar contenders. Paul Dergarabedian says 2017 may well redeem itself. That said, it might be time to re-evaluate some weaker sequels. In the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" flop, Johnny Depp faces an executioner who asks him...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES")

JOHN REYNOLDS: (As Hangman Executioner) How would you like to die, pirate - hanging, firing squad?

ULABY: The answer might be the box office. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRAKE SONG, "PASSIONFRUIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.