By Ashley Bergner/Newton Kansan
Maybe it's just me, but it seems the summer tent-pole season is becoming more and more crowded each year. Normally this isn't something I'd complain about. As a lover of big-budget science fiction and superhero films, summer tends to be my favorite time of the year at the box office, and my favorite movie of the year often comes from this season.
However, there is some sentiment that Hollywood has recently been trying to push too many big-budget special effects extravaganzas through the box office during the summer months. For example, this weekend we've got two comedic action/adventure films — "Red 2" and "R.I.P.D." — competing for a similar segment of the audience. In addition to battling each other, they'll also be fighting "Pacific Rim" from last week (which I personally hope will receive a boost from positive word-of-mouth), and then they will have to face down the superhero sequel "The Wolverine" next weekend.
This overcrowding can create problems as expensive-to-film blockbusters struggle to make back their budgets. Movies are forced to bring in huge opening weekend revenues, because by the next week, another big movie is coming out that will demand the public's attention. And if a movie doesn't have a really strong level of buzz, audiences — with their already full schedules — may vote to bypass the film altogether. I think this is part of why "Battleship" and "Dark Shadows" flopped last summer. They both had the misfortune of opening right after "The Avengers." By the time "Avengers" buzz finally began to die down, it was too late for both of these movies to gain ground at the box office.
Increasing movie ticket prices also may cause film fans to become more choosey in the long run, and audience burnout could become a possibility if Hollywood tries to market too many blockbusters.
I'm not necessarily advocating Hollywood move away from the summer tent-pole model. Summertime, when school is out and people are on vacation, seems like a more "fun," relaxing time of the year, and big-budget action and superhero films naturally play well during this time. However, films like "The Hunger Games" (released last March) and "Skyfall" (released last November) have proven action-filled crowd pleasers can turn in big box office numbers outside the summer movie season.
If studios space out their movies, each project may draw more attention from viewers, and I don't think box office tallies will suffer. Marvel's Thor and Captain America sequels will do just fine with their scheduled release dates in November 2013 and April 2014, respectively. Studios may find success by taking advantage of less busy times at the movie theater. I'd be willing to bet money "Oz the Great and Powerful" wouldn't have posted an $80 million opening weekend if it was released in June, but March seemed to be a good fit with audiences. By saving the biggest and best action/adventure films for the summertime and sprinkling the others more evenly throughout the year, Hollywood could perhaps avoid becoming its own worst competition.
Or, perhaps it's time for Hollywood to look at creating fewer blockbusters, and instead put more time into carefully crafting (and marketing) a smaller group of films. I'd rather have a smaller number of really great big-budget films, like "The Avengers" and J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboots, than a larger number of movies that includes expensive misfires like "After Earth" and last summer's "Total Recall" remake. A less crowded release schedule also might give people more of a chance to go back and see movies they really liked a second time.
So, what do you think? Is the summer release schedule becoming too crowded? Would you mind seeing summer tent-pole style movies at other times of the year, such as winter or spring? Or, would you rather see Hollywood trim down its release schedule?