Summer Blockbuster Report –> Bigger Budgets = Smaller Box Office?!

Hollywood is rethinking their love of big budget summer blockbusters, and is downsizing their multi-million dollar budgets to adjust to the recessionary economic times.

Ryan Nakashima discusses how Hollywood has put two big budget films on hold, the film version of Stephen Kings “The Dark Tower” series as well as Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” which reported had a budget skyrocketing past $250 mil.

These changes are happening in response to this past summer, which produced some less than stellar box office numbers, including Universal’s “Cowboys and Aliens” which grossed $129 mil in worldwide tickets sales, but was produced for more than $163 mil.  There was also Warner Brothers’ “Green Lantern” which was produced for $200 mil according to the website, however it made little revenue in the U.S., only grossing $120 mil.

Studios need to start realizing that just because a film has an astronomical budget, does not guarantee packed theaters across the country.


A surprise summer hit was the character driven film, “The Help” starting Emma Stone and based on a best selling novel of the same name. “The Help” was made for only $25 mil and has grossed more than $160 mil to date in the United States. A more action driven summer blockbuster was J.J. Abrams, “Super 8” by Paramount. Made for a reasonable $50 mil the film grossed more than $130 mil at the box-office in the states, matching that tally in other countries.

What do these movies have that the others do not? Well for one thing they both have positive reviews, with 75% positive and 82% positive reviews on the website  More importantly they have characters that audiences care about. When you put big money in a strong character film along with dazzling visuals and a fantastic story, you may be lucky enough to strike box-office gold.

Does this combination sound familiar? Well one director in Hollywood has this combination down to a science, his name: James Cameron.  He has directed two of the biggest films in history. “Titanic” was produced for about $200 mil and it grossed $600 mil domestically, and 2009’s “Avatar,” made for $250 mil, went on to gross $2.7 billion, yes that’s BILLION in the box-office worldwide.

So what have we learned? You need more than just special effects and explosions to get people into the theaters, however that still has not stopped producers from making “Transformers 3.” Audiences are starting to demand a little substance in their Hollywood blockbuster.  And in this day in age where “Netflix” and online streaming is becoming the norm, Hollywood better start adjusting fast, or else there maybe more poorly performing “Green Lanterns” in their future.

-Steven Colonero

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