ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

So, that was the summer. Labor Day weekend has been and gone, and we're all already working on the leftovers and trying not to think about what happened with those fireworks.

It's also, though, the end of the movie-going summer - which traditionally runs from the first weekend in May until...right now. Which means it's a big moment for the movie producers of America - a time to take a look back and see how things went, and for a whole lot of finger-pointing.

Especially as this has been the worst summer for box office in a long, long time.

Now, sure, we all loved Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pretty awesome too. Aside from Marvel Studios' two big tent-pole pictures, though, this past summer was - for most of us - not quite what we were expecting.

Pictured: not quite what we were expecting.
Pictured: not quite what we were expecting.

Transformers: Age of Extinction performed solidly - and made a killing internationally - but was critically mauled and didn't exactly explode at the US box office, with a $244 million box office haul to date. Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes all did well, breaking $200 million domestically, but there was very little - Guardians of the Galaxy aside - that inspired the sort of frantic movie-going rush that - say - an Avengers movie provides.

On top of that, several big-hitters under-performed - The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all saw lower box office returns than optimistic producers may have hoped for, and the mega-budgeted Tom Cruise sci-fi Edge of Tomorrow was a bonafide flop, making less than $100 million off a production and domestic marketing budget of over $250 million. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Hercules performed similarly poorly, with only $70 million in receipts to date.

Complex, intelligent and...unsuccessful.
Complex, intelligent and...unsuccessful.

It was also a weak year for comedies - 22 Jump Street and Neighbors did well, but the much-hyped Sex Tape, A Million Ways to Die in the West and Tammy all failing to set the box office alight - or break $100 million. Not even the solid success of teen-weepie The Fault in our Stars - with $124 million - could make up the shortfall.

All of which contributed to an undeniable financial fact - this summer was the weakest at the domestic box office in seventeen years.

Total summer ticket sales in the US and Canada are expected to reach $3.9 billion - a huge sum, but one that's down 15% on the same period last year, and lower than it's been years.

The big question? Why?

And was it Jersey Boys' fault?
And was it Jersey Boys' fault?

It's easy to point the finger at the top ten films released over the summer all being based on already established properties - either sequels, remakes, reboots or adaptations. Even the success of the less heralded Guardians of the Galaxy owes as much to the power of the Marvel brand as it does to the relative uniqueness of the movie itself.

That being said, much the same could be said about the past several years too - 2012, a huge year for the box office, owed much of its revenue to The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. It's possible that the long-predicted backlash against cookie-cutter sequels has arrived, but the continued dominance of such properties in the top ten suggests otherwise.

Instead, is it possible that 2014 has simply not had any truly A-List blockbusters? Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier both performed capably, but with Marvel not having released an Iron Man or Avengers movie this year, they're arguably both cinematic relief pitchers.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 did well this summer, but last year saw the release of both Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University - more than doubling the box office provided by top ten-placed animation.

It's not too hard to imagine that audiences are sick and tired of the same old movies being recycled, ret-conned and re-conceived - but it's perhaps important to wait and see what summer 2015 - with it's mega-wattage in the form of The Avengers 2 - brings. If there's a similarly weak box office total, then that's the time to really start worrying.

Until then? At least there'll be [Star Wars: Episode VII](movie:711158) next December...


What do you guys think? Why was Summer 2014 so weak at the box office?

via BoxOfficeMojo


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