HOLLYWOOD'S HITLESS YEAR LACK OF BLOCKBUSTERS HAS FILM INDUSTRY WORRIED.
After a record 29 blockbuster hits in 2003, Hollywood has delivered only two films - the religious epic ``The Passion of the Christ'' and the romantic comedy ``50 First Dates'' - that have grossed at least $100 million at the domestic box office so far this year.
The lack of big hits is being viewed as troubling by many in the industry with the overall ticket sales figure down 3 percent from last year and Hollywood heading into the third weekend of the summer movie season that accounts for about 40 percent of annual movie ticket sales.
``Right now, if not for 'The Passion,' we would have one film over $100 million and that is not where you want to be heading into the summer,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co.
``Passion,'' released by Newmarket Films, has had a stellar theatrical run since bowing in February and is closing in on the $370 million mark this week. But its success has been so unexpected and outside the Hollywood mainstream that industry experts point out that without its success, the 2004 grosses would be sharply lower than last year's.
A more traditional hit has been Sony Pictures Entertainment's ``50 First Dates,'' starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, which made $120 million during its run and added to Sandler's string of box office hits.
``You have Adam Sandler who is pretty consistent and this is his kind of sweet spot in terms of his films,'' said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of domestic distribution. ``And you had him with Drew Barrymore in a romantic comedy on a great date over Valentine's weekend. It's as good as gold as far as having all the right elements for success.''
But all of the other movies that have opened at No. 1 this year have so far stalled well before the $100 million threshold.
Among them: the comedies ``Starsky and Hutch'' ($87.2 million), ``Along Came Polly'' ($87.8 million); ``Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed ($81 million); and ``Barbershop 2: Back in Business'' ($64 million); the horror film ``Dawn of the Dead'' ($58.6 million); the action sequel ``Kill Bill: Vol. 2.'' ($61.3 million); and Denzel Washington's ``Man on Fire'' ($56.3 million).
``What is somewhat interesting is there are several sizable openings that quickly burned out like 'Along Came Polly,' 'Starsky and Hutch,' and 'Scooby-Doo,''' said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. ``All had an outside chance of hitting $100 million but couldn't get past that $85 million plateau.''
There have also been several ambitious box office failures so far this year starting with a trio of Disney releases that cost more than $100 million to make and market: the Western epic ``The Alamo,'' which grossed less than $25 million; the animated ``Home on the Range'' ($48.4 million); and the adventure ``Hidalgo'' ($65 million).
The first two major releases of the summer season, Universal Pictures' ``Van Helsing'' and Warner Bros.' ``Troy'' have not come close to approaching the stellar numbers posted by 2003's summer season openers: ``X2: X-Men United'' and ``The Matrix Reloaded,'' which ended up grossing $214.9 million and $281.5 million, respectively.
``Van Helsing'' had grossed $88.9 million as of Wednesday after 13 days in theaters while ``Troy'' has grossed $58.8 in its first six days. Both are expected to soon join the $100 million club but are taking a slower path than expected.
Virtually assured of crossing $100 million in its first 10 days or so is ``Shrek 2,'' which is being anticipated as the summer's first true blockbuster with any staying power. The sequel to ``Shrek'' was released Wednesday and made an estimated $11.8 million in its first day in theaters.
Dergarabedian said one of the chief reasons for the lack of break-out hits has been films of the same genre competing against each other at the multiplex.
``You had a slew of vengeance movies. They all did well but none of them is going to be able to stand out or do double the gross of their nearest competitor,'' he said. ``If you have 'Man on Fire,' 'Kill Bill' and 'Walking Tall,' it will be really hard for any one of them to do over $100 million when they are all sharing the audience.''
Ditto for female-driven movies such as ``13 Going on 30,'' ``Mean Girls'' and ``Laws of Attraction,'' which all opened within weeks of each other and were forced to share the wealth.
``If 'Man on Fire' was the only vengeance film and 'Mean Girls' the only girl film in the first quarter, you would see more films over $100 million,'' Dergarabedian said. ``It's a tough marketplace.''
The $100 million mark has long been an industry benchmark that has historically been considered confirmation of a film's blockbuster status.
But it's become increasingly important to assess the ultimate success of each movie on a case-by-case basis. Such factors as the size of production and marketing budgets, international grosses and DVD revenue all figure in more than ever.
This year, film and marketing budgets are at record levels for major studio productions but at the same time, studios are enjoying higher overseas grosses and the DVD industry is booming.
Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||May 21, 2004|
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