Not every movie released, even during the hottest time of year for box office sales, will be "the big one". You can't expect every movie to be a good one just like you can't expect every film to make millions of dollars. During this year however it seems even once bankable stars and directors have left some studios wondering what happened. So let's try and answer that very question, what happened in the summer of 2013?
If you go by a more traditional formula, that most movie studios have been going by for decades, how a movie does during opening weekend in the United States is key to success. It's why you see movies opening on Thursdays and Wednesdays rather than Fridays, all in hopes of irking out another night's box office amount to boost the overall opening weekend total. Perhaps a big opening weekend means word of mouth will be hire. And it'll convince others if so many are seeing this "hit" of the summer that they should too. Going by this train of thought it truly has been a lackluster summer.
Ignoring monster hits like Iron Man 3 (which is still sitting atop the summer box office total) and going down to some heavily marketed and heavily funded failures we see some recognizable names. White House Down has everything you'd want if you were making a big summer blockbuster. Behind the camera was Roland Emmerich (director of Independence Day) and in front was up-and-coming start Channing Tatum and multifaceted actor Jamie Foxx. Not to mention a whopping $150 million budget that doesn't include the weeks worth of marketing the film got up to release. And yet it opened at #4 that weekend with $24.9 million and would only go on to make $93.3 million worldwide. In this case that traditional metric ruled to be true but you could also blame the films US centrist plot and themes that may have turned off foreign audiences. An even scarier bust is one still happening at the box office. RIPD has been plastered on my TV with commercial after commercial gearing up to a release on July 19th. After one week at the box office the $130 million budget film has only made $24 worldwide, not even coming close to covering half the film's budget.
Where did the two films go wrong? Are we in an age where big film and marketing budgets can't make money anymore? What about films like Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel that packed heavily in both, or does having an established character or franchise cover your bases? Maybe the answer lands across oceans.
The foreign movie market has started to make some films turn from bombs to blockbusters. On the surface these films here in the US look like failures limping across the finish line but taking a closer look reveals some profits being made where they may have seen losses just a decade ago. Say the words After Earth to someone and, if they remember the release, they may wonder where it went. The film, just like White House Down, packed a well known director, M. Night Shyamalan, and an actor made for blockbusters, Will Smith. And just like White House Down, After Earth opened with a $130 million budget only to receive $27.5 million for it's first weekend. Yet, the film has made over $200 million around the world thanks to $175 million from foreign box office takes. A movie that once would have been forgotten has new life across the seas and still has a DVD/Blu-Ray release to profit off of.
While we watch films like Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger flounder under the weight of huge budgets and poor US box office returns remember that a bomb here doesn't ruin a film like it used to. 2013 may be the summer of bombs here in the US but the list shortens when you include the world market.