• Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Hollywood 2023 blockbuster fails highlights year of financial turmoil

Hollywood 2023 blockbuster fails highlights year of financial turmoil

In the world of Hollywood, 2023 has shaped up to be an extraordinary and tumultuous year. The film industry, known for its glitz and glamour, is currently marred by strife as the Writers Guild of America and the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA engage in a bitter strike, demanding fair compensation for their creative contributions. However, amidst the labour disputes, a more significant crisis looms – the alarming and consistent failure of Hollywood blockbusters at the box office, plunging major studios into financial chaos.

In a shocking turn of events, nearly every major blockbuster released in theatres this year has met a grim fate, sending shockwaves through the industry. These blockbuster behemoths, upon which studios often pin their hopes of reaping billions, have instead become colossal financial disappointments. The magnitude of this failure has reached historic proportions, with Disney, arguably the world’s largest film studio, reporting an estimated loss of a staggering $1 billion at the box office in 2023 alone.

It is crucial to note that this financial debacle extends beyond Disney, affecting major studios such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Universal. A disturbing pattern has emerged, with each studio grappling with the underperformance of their marquee projects, leaving industry insiders and audiences alike perplexed.

Amidst the sea of failures, a few bright spots stand out. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” enjoyed remarkable success, as did “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Three.” Perhaps the most surprising triumph came in the form of “Barbie,” which shattered box office records and crossed the billion-dollar mark within a mere two weeks. Additionally, “Super Mario Brothers” and the latest instalment of “John Wick” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” proved to be massive hits, providing their respective studios with substantial profits.

Read also: Hollywood strike actions offer lesson for Nigeria movie industry

Nonetheless, these successful films are a mere handful among the extensive roster of blockbusters released in 2023. The prevailing trend is one of major movies consistently falling short of expectations, leading to unprecedented losses. The question on everyone’s mind is, why are Hollywood’s once-untouchable blockbusters now stumbling so spectacularly?

Several factors appear to contribute to this year’s catastrophic performance and may continue to plague the industry if left unaddressed.

Blockbusters are too expensive to make now

One prominent reason for the industry’s woes is the astronomical cost associated with producing blockbuster movies. In recent years, major studios have inexplicably poured vast sums of money into their projects, raising concerns about the feasibility of recouping these investments at the box office.

To understand the dilemma, one must consider the complex financial dynamics surrounding film production, including deals with theatres and investors. It is estimated that for studios to merely break even on a movie, it must generate approximately 2.5 times its budget in box office revenue. For instance, a $50 million production must gross $125 million to avoid financial losses.

Read also: Deepfakes: Hollywood’s quest to create the perfect digital human

This financial tightrope explains why films like “Black Adam” left audiences puzzled. Despite exceeding its budget at the box office, the reported $260 million budget meant Warner Brothers lost money on the project. The movie’s financial success was illusory, highlighting a pervasive issue in Hollywood: inflated budgets that necessitate exorbitant box office earnings to break even.

The problem stems from a desire among studios to replicate Marvel’s remarkable financial achievements. Marvel, however, took a measured approach, building up to massive budgets over a decade of successful films. The studio’s calculated risk paid off, with “Avengers: Endgame” raking in nearly $3 billion worldwide. Notably, Marvel’s recent struggles at the box office indicate that they are grappling with the repercussions of expensive productions.

Studios’ eagerness to achieve billion-dollar success has inadvertently spawned a financially unsustainable business model. Forcing movies to generate astronomical returns to merely break even is a recipe for disaster, as evidenced by 2023’s parade of failures.

There are too many blockbuster movies

The very essence of a blockbuster lies in its rarity and significance. Historically, blockbusters were cinematic phenomena, events that occurred infrequently and generated immense excitement among moviegoers. They were legendary for their rarity and the extraordinary lines that snaked around city blocks, a phenomenon that gave birth to the term “blockbuster.”

However, Hollywood’s landscape began to shift in the last decade as studios shifted their focus to franchise-driven blockbusters. This shift gradually transformed the cinematic calendar, saturating it with a never-ending stream of high-budget spectacles.

In 2023 alone, the industry witnessed an inundation of blockbusters, with a staggering five major event films released in a single month, causing audience fatigue and indifference. When every movie is a supposed blockbuster, the term loses its meaning. People can’t be expected to frequent theatres multiple times a month, and the oversaturation ultimately dilutes the appeal of these once-mighty movies.

The result is that big-budget productions are no longer considered blockbusters in the traditional sense but rather expensive movies that struggle to recoup their investments. The industry’s relentless pursuit of blockbuster status has proven counterproductive, leading to diminishing returns.

Read also: Nigerians splash N59.2 million on ‘Barbie’ movie in two weekends

The Pandemic has altered audience habits

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought profound changes in the film industry, affecting not only the frequency of theatre visits but also the audiences’ willingness to engage with blockbusters. With the rising cost of movie tickets and ancillary expenses, such as transportation and concessions, audiences have become more discerning in their choices.

In the United States, the cost for two people to attend a movie has soared to $40, excluding additional expenses like transportation. In Nigeria, where cinema tickets cost an average of N4000 per person, a night at the movies with snacks and transport could easily exceed N10,000 for a couple.

In this economic landscape, studios expecting audiences to visit cinemas multiple times a month are met with a harsh reality: people have become selective in their moviegoing habits. With an incessant barrage of blockbusters competing for attention, audiences are forced to pick and choose, leaving many productions floundering in the red.

In essence, the 2023 blockbuster crisis underscores the inherent flaws in the industry’s blockbuster-centric vision. The financial model, fueled by excessive budgets, overabundance, and shifting audience preferences, has proven unsustainable and, to some, inevitable in its failure.

As the dust settles on this tumultuous year, Hollywood finds itself at a crossroads. The traditional blockbuster may need to adapt to a changing landscape or face further financial calamity. The industry must grapple with the challenge of balancing spectacle with substance, all while addressing the urgent calls for fairness and equity from its creative workforce. The future of Hollywood hangs in the balance, and 2023 has delivered a stark warning: the era of the mega-budget blockbuster may be drawing to a close