Studios & The Self Destructive Competition For The Summer Box Office

Is Hollywood intentionally trying to destroy itself? With budgets constantly creeping up and studios increasingly dependent on their huge tent pole pictures, is the blockbuster bubble about to burst? It wouldn’t be so bad if there was only one massive event picture a month but what about when there are two, three, four or even five blockbuster behemoths hitting screens in a single month? Worse still, what happens when three giant superheroes all face off against each other in one single weekend?

That’s the current outlook for Captain America 3 which will be squaring up to both Superman and Batman with both films set to be released on May 6, 2016. They say a little competition is healthy but isn’t this just the sign of an industry gone mad? Marvel had the spot claimed first and have refused (so far) to back down now that the Man of Steel sequel has also planted its flag in the sand. Can two of the biggest franchises in the world come out of this awkward position as winners or will one of the studios behind the films suffer on opening weekend?

Marvel and DC comic book heroes aren’t the only ones at it either. Just this month we have Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot and the latest X-Men sequel, Days of Future Past coming out within a week of each other. Budgeted at $160 million and $225 million respectively, surely one of these films will not be as successful compared to if they were released a month apart. The summer season of spectacular blockbusters continues to grow to accommodate more of these big hitters but even as huge releases start spreading into April, even March release dates, the slate still looks crowded with mega-budget studio pictures.

The same goes for the Christmas period. Recently dominated by Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, big releases such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the upcoming Interstellar are finding themselves shoved into November slots to avoid the curse of too much big competition. And then before you have a moment to catch your breath, it’s award season and suddenly the cinemas are crowded with something for all those tired of never ending explosions. Last year, American Hustle, All is Lost, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davies all hit cinemas within a month of each other. No wonder some films like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and The Railway Man drown in a sea of Oscar worthy films around this time.

So where does this leave the little indies that are dotted around all these monsters of the box office? Unfortunately, without the marketing power of the major studios and distributors, all too frequently they end up lost in the midst of all the massive tent poles. Even the ones that don’t go up against the blockbusters on the same opening weekends get little chance of making much money in cinemas as by the time word of mouth has spread, along comes another studio giant to crush any competition.

The studios are sticking to safer and safer products all the time. Franchises that are known to make money are increasingly the order of the day. With recent flops like The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D. failing to make big splashes despite their relative originality, the big money will be less likely to go to anything that isn’t a sequel or prequel. Even reboots of old TV shows and graphic novel adaptations are becoming riskier. So it makes sense for Hollywood to at least spread their films out a bit more. They are bound to have done extensive research into what dates make the most money for their movies but if they have more faith in the product then the date should matter less than the competition it is up against.
Not many people will go to see two films in one weekend so spreading the joy will hopefully benefit both audiences and the studios alike. Don’t make us choose between Captain America and Batman vs. Superman. There will always be a loser and it might just be the audience.


About the Author


Pete Turner is a Senior Reporter