A slow start for sum­mer movies

Box-of­fice re­ceipts lag, but big-bud­get re­leases such as ‘Juras­sic World’ may ig­nite ticket sales.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Saba Hamedy

The big block­buster sum­mer movie sea­son all of Hol­ly­wood was hop­ing for ap­pears to be fal­ter­ing amid a lack of break­out hits.

There’s been a steady stream of dou­ble-digit weekly de­clines in ticket sales since Me­mo­rial Day, the unof­fi­cial kick­off for what has be­come the movie in­dus­try’s most lu­cra­tive pe­riod.

The last three week­ends in a row hov­ered near 20% be­low the year-ear­lier pe­riod — and that is par­tic­u­larly trou­bling since 2014 fielded the worst sum­mer since 1997 when ad­justed for in­fla­tion.

The ma­jor Hol­ly­wood stu­dios have so far seen all of their early sum­mer en­tries un­able to sur­pass ex­pec­ta­tions, and in a num­ber of in­stances, films fell short. “To­mor­row­land” couldn’t draw big num­bers de­spite a star­ring role by Ge­orge Clooney, and even the crit­i­cally ac­claimed “Spy” wasn’t able to avoid a weekly slide.

The de­clines have put Tinseltown on no­tice that the next few months of boxof­fice re­ceipts might not vault the in­dus­try to the record lev­els some an­a­lysts had fore­cast.

“Me­mo­rial Day week­end was a turn­ing point for this sum­mer,” said Paul Der­garabe­dian, se­nior me­dia an­a­lyst at the mea­sure­ment firm Ren­trak. “Up un­til then, we had seen great per­for­mances one af­ter the next. The record-break­ing sum­mer sea­son seemed as­sured be­cause there was pos­i­tive mo­men­tum go­ing for­ward.”

At least some of the dropoff is blamed on a trend in which movie­go­ers wait for films to come out on ca­ble tele­vi­sion, video on de­mand or stream­ing sites such as Net­flix and Ama­zon.

But the sum­mer slate isn’t nec­es­sar­ily doomed to slump.

Stu­dios have yet to roll out their big-bud­get ac­tion se­quels that have pow­ered pre­vi­ous years, and tend to

be among the big­gest draws for au­di­ences. The big test will come this week­end when “Juras­sic World,” the Steven Spiel­berg fran­chise that started 22 years ago, hits the big screen.

Per­for­mance of the big­bud­get ac­tion movie might help an­a­lysts bet­ter gauge how the rest of the sum­mer will go. “Juras­sic World” is ex­pected to bring in a do­mes­tic haul of $100 mil­lion to $130 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple familiar with pre-re­lease au­di­ence sur­veys.

If early track­ing es­ti­mates hold, “Juras­sic World” could be­come the third­high­est film open­ing of the year, just be­hind the $147.2mil­lion launch of “Fu­ri­ous 7” and the $191.3-mil­lion launch of “Avengers: Age of Ul­tron.” The di­nosaur ac­tion film may also edge ahead of Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel,” which de­buted with $116.6 mil­lion in 2013, to be­come the big­gest June open­ing.

“It’s per­fect tim­ing,” said Phil Con­trino, vice pres­i­dent and chief an­a­lyst of BoxOf­fice.com. “The mar­ket­place is go­ing to make a come­back re­ally fast. We’re go­ing to see ev­ery­thing pick up start­ing this week­end with non­stop strong movies.”

In­deed, movie­go­ers have some big pop­corn re­leases on deck. An­i­mated fea­tures — box-of­fice cat­nip most sum­mers — will in­clude “Min­ions” and “In­side Out.” There’s also the lat­est in the “Mission: Im­pos­si­ble” and “Ter­mi­na­tor” fran­chises, as well as se­quels to “Ted” and “Magic Mike.”

An­a­lysts ear­lier this year fore­cast that th­ese films would com­bine to set records, help­ing box-of­fice re­ceipts climb to a pro­jected $11.2 bil­lion by the end of 2015. The box of­fice is up about 2.5% year-to-date.

Do­mes­tic roll­outs don’t nec­es­sar­ily de­ter­mine the fate of a film. Stu­dios also count on the global box of­fice to give films life in mar­kets out­side North Amer­ica.

For ex­am­ple, though “Mad Max: Fury Road” had a ro­bust open­ing in the U.S. and Canada, it came in at No. 2 when up against “Pitch Per­fect 2” in mid-May. How­ever, that same week­end, it was the No. 1 new movie in Australia, France, Rus­sia, Spain and more than 30 other mar­kets.

“Juras­sic World” opens in 65 in­ter­na­tional ter­ri­to­ries along with the U.S. and Canada this week­end, start­ing in China, France, Bel­gium, Egypt, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines on Wed­nes­day.

The movie’s star, Chris Pratt, has been mak­ing head­lines since he shaped up for his role in last sum­mer’s sur­prise block­buster “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The 35-year-old has be­come known as a man on the rise in Hol­ly­wood.

“It’s the per­fect storm of strong el­e­ments com­ing to­gether at just the right time,” Con­trino said of the mar­ket­ing cam­paign and Pratt’s no­to­ri­ety.

As of Tues­day, the film was dom­i­nat­ing the week­end’s ticket sales on both Fan­dango and MovieTick­ets.com.

‘The mar­ket­place is go­ing to make a come­back re­ally fast.’

—Phil Con­trino, vice pres­i­dent and chief an­a­lyst

of BoxOf­fice.com

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