10 Lessons Hollywood Can Learn from This Summer’s Movies

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This summer has been a strange one for Hollywood. On one hand, it was the first summer every to deliver not one, not two but three, billion dollar movies with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon all having crossed that threshold in worldwide receipts. A couple of other films fared quite well, making over $200 million at the box-office, such as Fast Five and The Hangover Part II. Then you have hits such as Thor, Bridesmaids and, more recently, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

So why does it seem so many film fans are bummed about this summer’s movies? More importantly, why is Hollywood suddenly canceling many high profile film projects at the last minute because they fear they will lose all kinds of money? Projects featuring high profile players like Johnny Depp, Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer (The Lone Ranger), Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (The Dark Tower) and Tom Cruise and Guillermo del Toro (At the Mountains of Madness).

Perhaps the reasons and more can be found in my list of “10 Things Hollywood (Should Have Learned) and (Did Learn) This Summer” and I will attempt to speculate whether Hollywood actually learned their lesson or if it’s one they should have learned, but likely didn’t…

1.
R-Rated Comedies are back!
(Did Learn)

Just a couple years back, a string of R-rated stinkers such as Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Observe and Report made people think maybe the R-rated comedy was a passing fad that couldn’t perform at the box-office. Not only did this summer disprove that myth with a string of R-rated box-office successes, but it also sent the suits in Hollywood scrambling to buy anything with a dick or fart joke in it.

Three raunchy, R-rated comedies from Summer 2011 went over $100 million including Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II and Horrible Bosses. Even the not-so-well reviewed Bad Teacher almost crossed that number, finishing just shy with $98 million. The only notable bomb in the bunch was The Change-Up — because 30 Minutes or Less was lucky enough to have only a $28 million budget — which brings me to two and three on my list….

2.
The “Black List” is Not to Be Worshiped
(Should Have Learned)

Yes, there are exceptions to most every rule, but as I see it, the vaunted Black List for unproduced scripts is largely one of the biggest crocks in all of Hollywood. For those who don’t know what the Black List is, I give you this description from SlashFilm:

“Started two years ago by a young executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way, who polled 90+ peers to send him their 10 favorite new unproduced screenplays to read over the holidays. The underground list was e-mailed around and quickly became a Hollywood phenomenon. To give you an idea, the top three entries of the 2005 list where Things We Lost in the Fire, Juno, and Lars and the Real Girl.”

And there in lies the problem. Out of those three scripts only one was an actual hit movie. Juno. And to this day Juno remains one of the only major box-office hits ever spawned from the List. The Social Network, which ended up on the list a couple years back even though a studio funded it, certainly qualifies as a hit, and there have been other movies people have considered “good” to come off the list such as Little Miss Sunshine and There Will be Blood, but it’s not a place for major blockbusters. Yes, Hancock made $230 million, but I think we can all look at that script and collectively raise our eyebrows.

This summer saw minor hits in Black List scripts Hanna and Source Code, both were decent films that will probably make their money back when all is said and done, neither film was a smash at the box-office or with the critics. 30 Minutes or Less, on the other hand, was generally reviled by critics and hasn’t found much traction with audiences. Then there was Jodie Foster’s The Beaver… enough said. My advice to Hollywood, the next time the list comes out, instead of snatching up any old script from it, maybe read it first.

3.
Ryan Reynolds is not a star.
Never was. Never will be.
(Did Learn)

Ryan Reynolds in The Change-Up and Green Lantern
Photo: Universal Pictures / Warner Bros.

For those remaining doubters who are still listening to Ryan’s agents, simply check the box-office for Green Lantern and The Change-Up. Judging from the totals for Green Lantern it is quite possible Reynolds actually takes $10-15 million off the box-office gross on every film he is in.

4.
3D is here to stay
(Did Learn)

I know… I know. You’re going to tell me to check this week’s box-office totals. Conan the Barbarian bombed in 3D. Fright Night bombed in 3D. And Spy Kids 4 bombed in 4D! You’re going to tell me people don’t want to pay the extra fee for crappy 3D movies. Blah, blah, blah. It’s not that I don’t agree, but unfortunately the international box-office tells a much different story.

Remember those three, billion dollar movies I mentioned at the beginning of the article? Well, if it wasn’t for additional 3D prices Pirates and Transformers wouldn’t have made over a billion dollars. 3D isn’t a fad at the worldwide box-office, it’s a gold mine, which is why Hollywood will continue to make 3D movies.

5.
Comic Con is a massive waste of marketing money
(Should Have Learned)

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this is true (Brad was all over it back in June), but this year was the best demonstration yet. Cowboys & Aliens put on a full court press at Comic Con and received much love at the San Diego convention where the film screened and director Jon Favreau DJ’d one of the fanboy parties. It didn’t translate into success at the box-office, however, as the film was one of the summer’s biggest disappointments. And they weren’t the only films that spent big at the Con.

This weekend’s stillborn release Fright Night also pinned their box-office hopes on a successful panel and party in San Diego. Meanwhile, Captain America: The First Avenger was released the same weekend as the Con and it opened above expectations and will end up a close second to Thor in this summer’s superhero derby when all is said and done. Hollywood should let the Con go back to a geekfest where fans get autographs from George Takei and use the money they waste on something else that might actually help at the box-office.

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Weekend: Dec. 12, 2019, Dec. 15, 2019

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