Pity the poor studio executives. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars giving moviegoers what they think they want -- summer blockbusters with big stars, big explosions and out-of-this-world themes -- and who makes all the money? Adam Sandler with another flick filled with childish behavior and flatulence jokes.
Los Angeles Times reporters Steven Zeitchik and Amy Kaufman dissected the phenomenon in a recent story. They found that box-office receipts this summer are 14% higher than last year, but the numbers are being driven to a great degree by small-scale movies, such as “The Conjuring,” “Despicable Me 2” and Sandler’s “Grown Ups 2,” not by the cinematic behemoths, such as “Pacific Rim,” “The Lone Ranger,” “After Earth” and “White House Down.”
Since May, there has practically been a blockbuster a week. “Man of Steel” has done well; apparently film fans never tire of a new iteration of the grand old Superman story, just as they never seem to tire of Batman. “Iron Man 3” has been a big hit too; maybe because the character is reaching the legendary level of the caped crusaders, maybe because Robert Downey, Jr. brings such a quirky, hip sensibility to the role or maybe because it was pretty much the first blockbuster out of the blocks in 2013.
Most of the others are still a long, long way from making their budget back, though “World War Z” may get there, thanks to star Brad Pitt’s tireless promotional efforts. All these movies aren’t terrible -- “Pacific Rim,” in particular, has unexpected depth for an Earth-in-peril epic, thanks to the skill of director Guillermo del Toro -- but a blockbuster used to be a singular event. Now, ticket buyers may be getting too much of a good thing.
When a blockbuster hits the theaters weekend after weekend -- and, especially, when several of them have such similar themes -- it just may be that a fatigue sets in and folks going to the movies lose interest in seeing another special-effects extravaganza. Apparently, there are times all they really want to watch is a familiar group of comedians acting gloriously immature.
Let’s hope that doesn’t give the studio execs any brilliant ideas about filling the screens next summer with comedies aimed at 14-year-old boys. Oh, wait, that’s already been done.