Summer box office slump signals necessary industry shakeup

It’s 2017 and everything is dying. Bees are dying at an alarming rate (more on that later), the retail industry has gotten so bad that Nordstrom is testing a location with no merchandise for sale on-site, and chain restaurants are seeing a major sales slump.

In recent weeks Hollywood and traditional movie theaters have been fingered as the next victim. While Millennials are typically charged with these “killings,” the New York Times reports that Hollywood executives are calling out movie review site Rotten Tomatoes as the industry’s killer. Execs fear that seeing a little green splat next to a film’s name keeps would-be moviegoers out of the theaters, and that boiling a movie down to a “freshness” score is just too simple.

Despite these fears, numbers crunched and published in a post on Medium by Data and Analytics Project Director Yves Bergquist this week show that, “Rotten Tomato scores have never played a very big role in driving box office performance, either positively or negatively.”

Dozens of other post mortems have been written trying to get to the bottom of Hollywood’s worst summer in more than a decade. Some point to stale sequels and franchise reboots while others blame the rise of streaming services and high-quality original series offered on those platforms, such as Netflix’s 2016 summer hit Stranger Things and this summer’s dominator, HBO’s Game of Thrones.

While all these are certainly factors, it’s important to pay attention to which movies succeeded.

Quirky, offbeat films like The Big Sick and A Ghost Story — in which Casey Affleck literally walked around as a ghost in a bed sheet — drew praise from critics and audiences alike upon hitting theaters. Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and War for the Planet of the Apes proved audiences are still interested in superheroes and blockbuster franchises so long as their characters and storylines are still creative.

Perhaps most notable was the success of Wonder Woman and Girls Trip. Both were undisputed hits this summer. Wonder Woman is currently the second highest grossing film of the year. Girls Trip, labeled a “box office anomaly” and “sleeper hit,” was the first comedy to make $100 million at the box office this year and the first film to do so that starred and was written, produced, and directed by African Americans… ever.

The takeaway here, according to Vox, is that the formula for summer movie success is changing, forcing studios and filmmakers to experiment. Looking at this summer’s successes — particularly Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, Girls Trip, and female-focused The Beguiled — it’s clear that audiences are hungry for greater representation and diverse characters in what they watch… which is exactly what aim to do here at Strangewaze.

Hollywood seems to be entering a brave new world. But as far as we’re concerned, the future of filmmaking looks bright.

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