Saturday, January 7, 2017

What We Can Learn From The 2016 Box Office

As part of my reflection for 2016 in film, now, I will delve into the box office and what lessons Hollywood can, and should, learn from their returns. 

Star Vehicles Aren't Working: We are in a day and age where if you throw a movie star at the center of a project, it isn't a guaranteed opening. Despite starring Brad Pitt, nobody saw Allied (currently at $39m against an $85m budget), Will Smith couldn't carry Collateral Beauty to a solid opening in spite of it getting critically panned, and Passengers is currently struggling despite starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, who are two of the hottest stars right now. So selling a project on an A-lister's shoulders doesn't always work these days. 

Diverse Films Sell: While the Ghostbusters reboot fell below financial expectations, that doesn't mean people don't want to see stories about women. Bad Moms became the first film by distributor STX Entertainment to reach $100 million domestically, Blake Lively carried The Shallows to $119 million worldwide against a $17 million price tag while Zootopia, Moana, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all made at least $200 million stateside. While the last three films are all attached to famous brands, Disney and Star Wars, they still allowed representation to take place regardless. 

2016 was also a good year for African-American cinema. The first film to bump Star Wars: The Force Awakens out of the number one spot was Ride Along 2 which stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart who also co-led Central Intelligence with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson which grossed $217 million against a $50 million budget. Meanwhile, not only did Tyler Perry's Boo!: A Madea Halloween hold onto the number one spot for two weeks in a row but it beat out both Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher 2: Never Goes Back) and Tom Hanks (Inferno). Also, when I went to go see Fences, three of its showings, including the one I went to, were sold out. So there is an interest in stories about the black community. We did see an underrepresentation in stories about the Latino and Asian communities. But we're slowly working on that. 

Don't Always Follow The Money: Just because one movie does well does NOT mean it warrants a sequel. To the makers of Alice Through The Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, and Independence Day: Resurgence, hopefully you guys learned your lesson.

Audiences Aren't Going To Take Whitewashing Anymore: Going back to the topic of diversity, audiences made it clear this year with their dollars and through social media that they are rebelling against Hollywood inappropriately casting white actors as ethnic people. The whitewashed Gods Of Egypt was a complete bomb ($150 million against a $140 million budget) and when the trailer for Ghost In The Shell along with a still for Scarlett Johansson were released, people let it known on Twitter how mad they were about the Japanese lead role being played by a white actress. Also, The Great Wall is causing a lot of ire due to the film seemingly depicting the "white savior" narrative since it puts Matt Damon at the center. So the makers of Ghost In The Shell and The Great Wall should be nervous. 

Cost Effective Horror Films Sell: When The Purge: Election Year ,which had a $10 million price tag, was first released, it performed better than The BFG and The Legend Of Tarzan which had a combined production budget of $320 million. Also, the low budgeted Don't Breathe held on to the number one spot for a few weeks and went on to make $154.5 million worldwide. So because Hollywood is a place where they focus on what is working and what's not, 2016 showed that if you make a cost-effective horror film with an intriguing concept, audiences will go see it despite it not having any stars.

So those are a few lessons Hollywood can learn from its receipts. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!!!