Dark days: box office slumps amid tepid releases

By on August 30, 2017

These truly are dark days. As the weekend approached I knew box offices around the U.S. were suffering. People are just not coming out to the theater. Releases like the rebirth of Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) in “Birth of the Dragon;” the feel-good, Christian film “All Saints;” and Weinstein Company’s (“Paddington”) “Leap!” made horrible first week showings, with only “Leap!” cracking the top five. (Weinstein needs to learn to stay out of the kids-movie game and stick with flicks like “Django Unchained” and “Lion.”)

“I just don’t go to the movies,” said a friend of mine recently. We were talking about the last movie he saw “Wonder Woman,” and he couldn’t remember what he had last seen in the theater before the summer’s box office bright spot. He’s not alone.

Following my Monday morning routine, I opened up boxofficemojo.com and sipped my coffee. The headline read: “Hitman’s Bodyguard” Repeats at #1 During Worst Box Office Weekend in Over 15 Years.

Ugh! I should know firsthand. There was nothing new I wanted to see in theaters. Over the weekend, the combined gross of the top 12 films didn’t crack $50 million. That is the worst August weekend in more than 20 years! Scott Mendelson, writing for Forbes, saw this coming back in March.

“Looking at the schedule, it’s hard not to see a situation where 2017 ends with a record number of not just bombs (in regards to not making enough to justify expenses and expectations) but of wide releases that open to near-empty theaters over the next 10 months,” wrote Mendelson.

So, is there a glimmer of hope on the horizon? Barely. A dark horse of a different color comes clowning around theaters on Sept. 9 with “It.” Films based on Stephen King novels have been hit or miss. “Stand By Me” and “The Shining” were incredible, but the now-barely showing “The Dark Tower” is a flop. With the current funk, “It” may leave New Line Cinema searching storm drains for spare change instead of creepy clowns. Fans of the horrifying tome still cringe thinking back to the 1990 TV mini-series.

Box office offerings lately have been, well, scary. Reviewer Michael Upton thinks that maybe Stephen King’s “It” might end the slump. Pennywise the clown is played by Bill Skarsgård in this, the first film version of the book.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is set up to fail on Sept. 22. I was one of the few who really liked “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” starring Colin Firth as super spy Harry Hart and I think this second installment looks better. But, it is coming out at a notoriously slow time for movies in a year that is trending below average.

I predict Tom Cruise will flop down to Earth on Sept. 29 with “American Made,” and movie fans won’t get really excited about pouring into theaters until “Thor: Ragnarock” kicks off the holiday season on Nov. 3.

Still, I hate to be such a downer, but just based on the trailers I see this movie underperforming for the mighty Marvel empire. It’s the “Justice League” to the rescue on Nov. 17 as fans hope to see if D.C. doesn’t screw up the good thing they have going after the success of “Wonder Woman.”

Now is also the time people will start throwing around opinions for Oscars. “Mother!” will be one of those films. Starring Academy-darling Jennifer Lawrence, this creepfest by Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) will shine like a beacon of film-fan hope on Sept. 15.

Agree or disagree? Reel Reviews works like this: 1) Watch a movie; 2) Send suggestions, comments and criticism to Michael at SomeProMCU@gmail.com.

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