So The Avengers: Age of Ultron (I’m skipping the IMDB link, either you know it or you don’t), plowed onto U.S. screens — after BOWING INTERNATIONALLY a week earlier (which should tell you a hell of A LOT about how Hollywood’s box office is currently structured) — and in its first three-days (including late-night Thursday shows) grossed: $191.3 million, down from the original “Avengers” opening-weekend RECORD haul of over $207 million.
Now can one reasonably call $191.3 million in 3 days, meh! No, because it’s already done $631.1 million when you factor in the International numbers.
However, you can read some tea leaves from the grosses, and NUMBERS ASIDE, they’re actually a MIXED BAG…
REBOOT/SEQUEL FATIGUE? BUT SEEMINGLY ONLY IN THE AVENGERS CASE?...
Normally, the SEQUEL to a beloved original has a far larger OPENING WEEKEND. “The Dark Knight” coming off the heels of the series revitalizing “Batman Begins”. The continued growth of the “Iron Man” series, which keeps getting BIGGER with each entry (Iron Man 3 opened to over $174 million). “Thor”, “Captain America”, all posted BIG GAINS off the originals. So ULTRON parts company with that historical metric.
And what’s even more interesting: The first AVENGERS had an A+ from CinemaScore, which means that the original laid down the TENTPOLE FABRIC impeccably. Everyone walked away satisfied, but strangely — they DIDN’T ALL COME BACK.
WITHOUT SOME SERIOUS INFLATION, WE MAY NOT SEE ANOTHER RECORD-BREAKING DOMESTIC OPENING…
Sort of like how Francis Fukayama’s much derided “End of History” essay (although in my opinion, MISREAD and actually PROPHETIC) posited that the coming decades would show WESTERN COUNTRIES pretty much passing the baton back and forth without much civilizational CHANGE — outside potential decline — because they’d already hit PEAK DEMOCRACY, much the same is happening with MOVIE OPENING WEEKENDS. They’re AWESOME, they’re going to stay AWESOME, but they’re going to look markedly the same for the near future.
You may occasionally see a SEISMIC JUMP, but these are OUTLIERS. Just check out this chart:
There are really only FOUR GAME-CHANGERS:
SPIDER-MAN (2002), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 (2006), THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), and THE AVENGERS (2012). All the other BIG OPENERS are just franchises passing the batons back and forth shaving points here and there. There’s little new GROWTH, just the standard minting of MONEY.
But the most damning statistic that we’ve reached PEAK OPENING WEEKEND is that:
DISTRIBUTORS (primarily DISNEY because they OWN EVERYTHING) want 60% of DOMESTIC BOX-OFFICE from theatre chains now, as opposed to the traditional 50%. And I don’t think they’re demanding it just to be extra malevolent.
YOUNG AMERICANS AREN’T HEARTING MOVIES THE WAY THEY USED TO (WITH A SLIGHT DETOUR INTO EUROPEAN DEMOGRAPHY):
And this is the omega point for the REAL MUTATION, and Hollywood can’t seem to find a franchise to act as an inoculation. Because —
HISTORICALLY, young people have been the movie’s best friend. Not ANYMORE. According to Indiewire, only 41% of those attending the ULTRON OPENING weekend were under 25.
And this ties into an article I wrote a few weeks back about MY TWELVE-YEAR OLD SON AND TWITCH, and if I may invoke the OLD BELOVED GOAT one more time, this was our exchange over the weekend:
ME: “Want me to take you to ULTRON this weekend?”
HIM (Deadpan): “No. Why. Do YOU want to go?”
AMERICAN TWEENS, TEENS, KIDS these days: They DON’T LIKE MOVIES. It’s DONE FOR THEM. My generation may think MOVIES are done as ART. But our kids think not only are they done as ART, they’re done as ENTERTAINMENT TOO.
And frankly I think Hollywood has gotten a bit RUEFUL about it. And their response is exactly what EUROPEANS DID when they decided not to have anymore CHILDREN. They IMPORTED THEM, or in HOLLYWOOD’S case EXPORT THEM. That’s right AMERICAN KIDS, HOLLYWOOD has decided it HEARTS Chinese, Japanese, French, Russian, and Brazilian KIDS BETTER…
THERE’S MORE MONEY AND COMPETITION IN DIRECT EVENTS…LOOSELY TRANSLATED: THEATRICAL IS DEAD…
But the HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE being spun in overdrive (crash positions please) is that…
The Mayweather/Pacquiao BOUT took a big bite out of ULTRON’S SATURDAY GROSSES (which could be, but I’m having a real hard time with some people claiming the KENTUCKY DERBY also laid ULTRON LOW).
But i think blaming the fight for bringing down ULTRON is a bit of missing the forest for the trees:
The FIGHT (final numbers still STANDING BY but likely) made in the neighborhood of $400 million in ONE NIGHT, as opposed to the $191 million ULTRON made in 3 1/2 days.
So the future is clearly in DIRECT LIVE EVENTS, not getting people into a THEATRE. And I think (out of all the information I presented ABOVE) that the RAW TRUTH is:
We live in a distinctly (at least in America) POST-THEATRICAL WORLD.
And if we just accepted this fact, and stopped stigmatizing movies that bypass theaters, we MIGHT end up getting far, far more innovative and interesting home-cinema, VOD experiences.