Can Iron Man, the Lone Ranger and Superman Save the Box Office?
Summer Movie Preview: Can 'Iron Man,' 'Lone Ranger' and 'Superman' Save the Box Office?
Summer can't come soon enough for studios and movie theater owners looking to break the box office out of the slump it's been mired in for much of 2013.
Despite a few hits like "Identity Thief," the movie industry has lacked the "Hunger Games" size blockbuster needed to convince droves of moviegoers to put down their iPads and joysticks and head to the multiplex. Through last weekend, the domestic box office was down 12.6 percent from the previous year and this weekend was soft as well.
The studios are banking that the age-old formula of mixing a franchise-heavy slate with a couple of star-driven blockbusters from Will Smith and Johnny Depp will prove irresistible to moviegoers who've been staying at home.
Barring any last minute shifts in scheduling, 17 sequels will unspool over the summer, the most since 2003. That includes follow-ups to such popular franchises as "The Hangover," "Iron Man" and "Fast & Furious."
"Studios are hoping that audiences get franchise fever, because that's what they're doling out this summer," Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told TheWrap. "Hollywood increasingly relies on sequels as a safety net. Usually there's an ebb and flow, but this year you're seeing them hit all at once."
Indeed, every month except June features a weekend when not one but two sequels are opening against one another.
There are also several would-be tentpoles debuting, such as Guillermo del Toro's giant monsters versus giant robots film "Pacific Rim" and Brad Pitt's duel with the zombie apocalypse in "World War Z." With a dollop of R-Rated comedies like "The Heat" and a dash of animated fare like "Turbo" and "Epic," studios believe there will be enough diversity to appeal to audiences of varying ages.
They argue that the box office can make up the difference and match last year's record-breaking haul. (But they would, wouldn't they?)
Also read: 5 Breakout Movie Stars of Summer 2013
"I think it will be a bigger summer than last year," Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said. "There's one or two monsters opening every week from May to the end of August and if you look at the slate, there's something for everyone."
Exhibitors and studio executives say lack of variety was the glaring flaw in the lineup of winter films. A glut of violent movies like "A Good Day to Die Hard" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D" left little at the multiplex for audiences eager for stories excluding big guns and gore.
"We just stumbled out of the gate," Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, said of the industry's winter doldrums. "The January and into February landscape was just littered with R-rated movies. There was no balance or breadth and ultimately there was too many forgettable movies."
This summer is the industry's best chance to re-ignite the public's passion and pick up steam if they want to match or surpass 2012's high-water mark of $34.7 billion at the international box office. Though records fall last year, the summer box office was actually down 2.1 percent from the previous one. Prior to blockbusters like "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises," the summer started slowly with flops like "Battleship" and "Dark Shadows."