Right now, movie theater owners from across the country are gathering in Las Vegas for CinemaCon, the exhibition industry’s annual convention, to get an early peek at some of the big blockbusters that will soon be luring audiences into their theaters in droves. Or so they hope. The fact is, underneath all the rah-rah presentations, the mood can’t be too chipper. It’s been a bloodbath at the box office lately.
Movie theater attendance in the U.S. and Canada is down a staggering 20 percent so far this year from 2010’s numbers – and 2010’s numbers were down 5 percent from the year before. How to account for the ongoing slump? It’s easy to blame the lousy economy, $4-a-gallon gas, or the proliferation of cheap stay-at-home entertainment options, but one likely contributing factor to the downturn has been staring Hollywood in the face for a while now: Too many movies just plain stink. Finally, after watching one critically lambasted film after another crash and burn at the box office – from How Do You Know to Gulliver’s Travels to Mars Needs Moms to Red Riding Hood to Sucker Punch – it seems that, like a drug addict stumbling toward his bottom, the industry may be starting to face the suck-itude head-on. A front page story in today’s Los Angeles Times quotes several studio executives and exhibitors owning up to the generally poor quality of what they’ve been serving up to moviegoers in 2011. “So far there is just nothing terribly compelling about what we’re delivering as an industry,” admits Sony Pictures Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton.
Of course, Hollywood has been through slumps before, and many in the industry are crossing their fingers that that things will turn around this summer with a slew of potential crowd-pleasers like the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Hangover II, Super 8, the final Harry Potter film, and Green Lantern. Still, the longer the box office remains weak, the more ominous the situation feels. Put it this way: If we’re still talking about a slump three months from now, then you’ll really know there’s a serious problem.
What do you think? Is the lackluster quality of recent movies keeping you away from the multiplex? Or is something else to blame? Let us – and Hollywood – know in the poll below: