Why is the 2011 domestic box office down?
(See previous post: “MI4: Tom Cruise to Save Domestic Box Office? + Two Steven Spielberg Underperformers.”) In 2011, Hollywood movies earned the major studios an estimated $10.2 billion at the U.S. and Canada box office. That’s down 3.5 percent from 2010, according to Hollywood.com.
An estimated 1.28 billion tickets have been sold this year, which represents a 4.4 percent decline from 2010 and the lowest figure since 1995, the year of the talking pig Babe and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, when admissions totaled 1.26 billion.
Among the suggested reasons for the downturn, there are several that make perfect sense and several that utterly inane.
The U.S. economy at fault
The weak U.S. economy + high film-ticket prices combo is almost undeniably keeping people away from movie houses. In fact, that has happened in the past, most notably during the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, when the majority of the big Hollywood studios posted heavy losses, with a few of them almost going bankrupt.
Besides, movies nowadays can be watched on DVD or VOD about three months after they’re released in theaters. That’s another good reason for people to refuse to pay $12 or $15 or $18 for a movie ticket.
That may also help to explain why kiddie flicks (or “family movies”) have, relatively speaking, fared poorly this year – e.g., Happy Feet Two, Arthur Christmas, The Muppets, and, to some extent, Kung Fu Panda 2.
How many families can afford $100 weekends at the movies when parents, guardians, or what-have-you can rent a title for less than one-tenth of that amount and show it to an audience of four or five or ten?
North American moviegoers tired of sequels?
On the other hand, the claim that American and Canadian moviegoers have grown tired of sequels is patently absurd.
The top seven domestic releases this year are all sequels. These seven movies combined have so far brought in $1.9 billion – or nearly 20 percent of the year’s total domestic take.
And the current hit at American and Canadian movie theaters is none other than Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4. As clearly indicated by its abbreviated title, that’s the fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible 15-year franchise.
The Intouchables trailer with François Cluzet and Omar Sy. An “inspirational” comedy-drama about two radically different men – a wealthy, white tetraplegic (Cluzet) and his black caretaker (Sy) – who must learn to both get along and get out of scrapes, The Intouchables has become one of the biggest box office hits in French cinema history. Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, The Intouchables was inspired by the true story of French businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou, who were depicted in Jean-Pierre Devillers and Isabelle Cottenceau’s 2003 TV documentary À la vie, à la mort.
As for the availability of new gadgets keeping people busy at home staring at their iPads and iPods … Well, does that mean only North Americans have access to those?
Business overseas has remained quite strong. This year, for instance, as per Screen International Paramount became the first Hollywood studio ever to pass the $3 billion mark outside North America (not adjusted for inflation/currency fluctuations).
One Warner Bros. general sales manager has placed some of the blame for the domestic downturn on more “gaming and social-networking opportunities.” But wait.
Wasn’t “gaming,” Twitter, Facebook, etc. all very much available when Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes came out in late 2009? That Warner Bros. release fared – possibly much – better domestically than its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which is still in theaters.
Strong eurozone box office despite structural economic weaknesses
It would be interesting to discover why some troubled European economies such as France and Germany continue to generate solid box office revenues in U.S. dollars despite not only the eurozone economic turmoil but also a devaluation of the euro itself in the last five months.
In France, for instance, the top two movies of 2011 are:
- Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s socially conscious comedy-drama The Intouchables / Intouchables, starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy.
- Dany Boon’s late 2010 comedy Nothing to Declare / Rien à déclarer, toplining Boon, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Karin Viard.
These two titles have a combined gross of nearly $200 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart.
For comparison’s sake, France’s top two movies of 2010, David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Mike Mitchell’s Shrek Forever After, earned less than $100 million combined.
Perhaps the French don’t have access to video games, Facebook, or Apple products?
Jeremy Irvine War Horse image: David Appleby / DreamWorks.
The Intouchables trailer with François Cluzet and Omar Sy: Quad Productions.
“Why Is Domestic Box Office Down? Pundits Offer Unconvincing Explanations” last updated July 2018.