Here's Why Hollywood's In A Record-Setting Box Office Slump

You might not have noticed it, if you have attended movie screenings on opening weekend and muscled through packed houses to find great seats in your neighborhood multiplex, but Hollywood is in the midst of a record-setting slump. No film released this season (this year, in fact) has crossed the $300 million mark at the domestic box office. Only one film – Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction -- reported an opening weekend north of $100 million (and that’s only if you believe the studio accountants, who may have fudged a decimal point.) And almost every movie that has opened big has struggled to sustain that momentum. These are dire times at the domestic box, and THR thinks they know a few of the reasons.

The trade posted sobering statistics about the struggling box office this summer, reporting that the season "is expected to finish down 15 to 20 percent compared with 2013, the worst year-over-year decline in three decades, and revenue will struggle to crack $4 billion, which hasn't happened in eight years." If you think that sounds terrible… you are right. Analysts predict that the full year "is facing a deficit of 4 to 5 percent." International numbers are helping to pick up the slack, but they aren’t helping nearly as much as studios had helped. Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal admits, "I would have liked Amazing Spider-Man 2 to make a lot more money for us than it did, but it made a lot of money for us anyway."

So why are numbers down? THR floats a few theories, most of which make a ton of sense. For starters, it is suggested that young men – normally the driving force at the box office – aren’t responding at the ticket window the way they used to (opening the door to success stories like Maleficent and The Fault In Our Stars). "Young men haven't been as enthusiastic as usual," analyst Phil Contrino tells the trade. "Maybe [studios] shouldn't just go after this demo when building their summer tentpoles."

Targeting smaller demos also helped Jon Favreau’s word-of-mouth hit Chef, this summer "It didn’t need to capture every person in every country," said the director, who went down these roads with his Iron Man movies and, to a certain extent, Cowboys & Aliens. Favreau admits, "I think times are changing. We have to acknowledge that and not try to chase what used to be."

At the same time, it is noted that these downturns can by cyclical, and a rebound year (expected in 2015) can easily wipe away the disappointing turns by films like Sex Tape or A Million Ways to Die In The West. "I think it's cyclical," said producer Simon Kinberg, who worked heavily on one of this year’s biggest hits, X-Men: Days of Future Past. "Next summer will be the biggest box-office summer in history, and nobody will be worrying about the business."

That could be true, but it doesn’t mean the industry can’t learn a lesson or two from this downturn. What do you think is the defining reason for the current slump? Is it temporary? Or is the Hollywood model changing to the point where the landscape is totally different now, and studios will have to adjust – in a major way – to keep pace? Weigh in below.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.