Box office overload: Is Hollywood cramming the summer with too many films?

172565 KS_New_RIPDMaybe 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?


17 thoughts on “Box office overload: Is Hollywood cramming the summer with too many films?

  1. Isn’t it sort of using the marketplace ideology though? The better blockbusters will be the ones that make money, the more mediocre blockbusters wont. Yes, sometimes great blockbusters slip through the cracks and lesser films have a tendency to make more money then they should (i.e. transformers), but if you were to look at a list of highest grossing films, most of them are pretty great movies.

    • Fair point. 🙂 And as much as I’m not a fan of the Transformers movies, I do have to acknowledge that they make a lot of money, so from a business standpoint it does make sense to keep making sequels.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I was thinking the same thing the other day. There are a lot of movies fighting for space. But I think it’s a good thing because for the first time in a long time I’ve A) seen more than my usual 1-2 summer blockbusters and B) I’ve liked what I’ve seen – wasn’t disappointed with a single one!
    And I’m actually looking forward to a few more that are coming out.

    • I had a lot of fun with the two movies I was most looking forward to, Star Trek Into Darkness and Pacific Rim. And we do have several big ones still coming later this year, such as Thor 2, Hunger Games Catching Fire and the next Hobbit! 🙂

  3. This is the summer of the mediocre blockbuster. So there are a lot of mid-level movies fighting it out for box office dollars. None of them will do well until DVD releases. (which ironically will be spread out over the fall & winter months and next year) There is no slam dunk movie this year; No Batman, No Harry Potter, No Superhero Team-up, that deserves its own weekend. Distributors stayed away from Man of Steel’s weekend thinking it would do a lot better. Hell, in the end Grown Ups 2 might be the highest grossing film this summer. Comedies usually have a long tail. It’s been a weird, off year; 2013. Most of these movies feel like Fall releases or late late summer film and the big ones came out early this year. It’s just weird. Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, were spring movies. Nothing else that big in the pipeline. I’m waiting for Elysium. I may go see Wolverine but then again I may not. And that’s it.

    • Yeah, 2013 did get off to a slow start, and it definitely does feel different than last year. My three favorite summer blockbusters so far are Star Trek Into Darkness, Pacific Rim and Iron Man 3, but you’re right Star Trek and Iron Man were technically spring movies since they came out in May. I’m curious to see what the reviews for Elysium and Wolverine are.

  4. Agree with you.

    This kind of hectic summer schedule only leads to cannibalizing of the box office business.

    Another interesting aspect is the serious nature of the movies. Even comedies like This Is the End feature apocalypse. Movies need to be more fun and be less serious.


    • You’re right, quite a few of the movies have been darker in tone, and there’s definitely a post-apocalyptic theme this year, with This is the End, Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Elysium, Hunger Games Catching Fire, and maybe even several others.

  5. For me its not the number of films being released as much as it is the middling nature of the films being released. While I was not a huge fan of this weeks Only God Forgives, at least it was original looking and took some chances.

  6. I think I agree with your article. They are making big deals out of films thaat shouldn’t even be there such as Smurfs 2…
    And you can’t outmath last year’s batman and avengers and Grown Ups 2…
    Oh wait that is
    A) From this year


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