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This Was The Worst Performing Movie Summer In 17 Years

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The massive success of Guardians of the Galaxy may obscure that this is not turning out to be a good year for the U.S. movie business. Now that the summer season there is closing, the figures have been crunched and 2014 has come up wanting by quite a bit. Compared to last year, this summer season has earned nearly 18 percent less than before.


The New York Times speculates that it’s because audiences are tired of more of the same. That or it was marketing: the theory floated for Lucy‘s success is a bold black-and-white marketing campaign. My money says it’s because a) Scarlett Johansson kicking butt and b) never count out Luc Besson. But that’s just my opinion. The NYT concludes it’s because audiences are tired of the same-old thing, using some selective reasoning (A Million Ways to Die in the West flopped because it was bad, not because it was familiar). Here’s how the article sums up Edge Of Tomorrow‘s failure:

Tom Cruise’s futuristic “Edge of Tomorrow,” for instance, looked like a hit — and that was exactly its problem. The title was too similar to “The Day After Tomorrow,” released in summer 2004. The barren landscape too closely resembled Mr. Cruise’s 2013 film “Oblivion.” Characters walking around in robot exoskeletons? Been there (“Pacific Rim”), done that (“Real Steel”).


Deadline takes an analytic look and notes a more distressing trend: 2014’s movies are not making nearly as much money as their predecessors from last year. This year’s top movie, Guardians, made $280 million in the U.S. domestic market – a way behind last year’s top film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and its $424 million. In fact, the top 5 movies of 2013 made more than Guardians, though it is close to inching past Man Of Steel.

Whatever the reason for the dip, it’s not sequelitis – six of the top ten movies this year so far are sequels. Of the rest one is a spin off of sorts (Maleficent) and two are based on known brands (Godzilla, The Lego Movie). In fact, Guardians is the only remotely original entry on the list.

Last Updated: September 3, 2014


  1. There are lots of contributing factors: Home entertainment systems of an alternative, harsher financial climate making people more discriminate with their spending, etc.

    The worst part about this whole thing, is that this has been one of the best blockbuster seasons in years.With the exception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, virtually all of the high profile blockbusters met or went above expectations when it came to their quality.


    • James Francis

      September 3, 2014 at 15:05

      Good points. But the U.S. market still represents 50% of the global movie market, so it is a good benchmark to see what the market is doing. Also, margins on foreign receipts are much lower than in the U.S., so even if a movie does well abroad that does not necessarily translate into an equal profit. The NYT points out that domestically studios get 50 cents to ever dollar. Abroad they are lucky if they get 25 cents. So if a movie does well abroad, ti is still only contributing half as much as the US market. That’s why a film can do really well overseas and still be a flop – because of economies of scale.


      • Kervyn Cloete

        September 3, 2014 at 15:10

        Understandable, and I’m definitely not debating that. It’s just that the foreign market is becoming more and more important in this venture (to the point where movies like Iron Man 3 are including special scenes with Chinese actors, only included in the Chinese versions of the movie).

        The global box office also tends to be a bit more forgiving when it comes popcorn movies. Hence why several movies, like Battleship, are releasing internationally first in the last several years. This has the added benefit of also drumming up some buzz among your average moviegoer before it hits US shores and thus granting a better chance at a bigger opening weekend, even if the US critics are not really supporting the movie.


        • James Francis

          September 3, 2014 at 15:18

          To a degree. But foreign selling is nothing new – it is practically how all Tarantino’s movies make big profits. The problem is that foreign performance is not enough to make up for U.S. losses and due to how the business works, never will be. True, China bucks the trend from time to time. But it is practically only China that does. When last did you read of Europe or Canada saving a film? Also, with rare exception, movies that do well in China also tend to do well in the U.S. So foreign receipts are not a way around this problem. People are simply not watching as many movies as before due to other alternatives, as you pointed out.


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