TV Killed the Radio Star, Is Now Murdering the Box Office

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

A new report from The Hollywood Reporter citing experts from Hollywood and Wall Street says that this year’s summer box office has been so horrendously bad that there’s almost no way the films coming out in the fall and winter will be able to make up for it.

The domestic box office is down 5.6 percent at the year to date versus last year according to figures cited in the article, with the summer’s box office take dropping an astounding 15 percent from summer 2013. Franchises that normally produce sure-fire hits like Spider-Man and Transformers both saw films released this summer that underperformed domestically. The weekend of September 5 was the worst the box office weekend that has been seen since right after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Analysts are saying that the movies slated for release this fall and winter won’t make enough money to bring the box office take up to what it was in 2013 unless something very unexpected happens. “Unless something comes out of left field, we’ll be down in third and fourth quarters,” analyst Erik Handler of MKM Partners told The Hollywood Reporter. “Something really needs to break out.”

What’s causing this massive decline in box office revenue? Analysts aren’t completely sure. “It was a disaster,” Doug Creuntz of Cowen & Co. said of the summer box office take to The Hollywood Reporter. “There was plenty of stuff for people to go see that they normally want to see. Something is going on that isn’t good for studios and theater chains. U.S. consumer habits are changing.”

One thing that could be causing this change is what critics have been calling the current ‘golden age‘ of television. The projects being made on TV recently take bigger risks and result in more engaging material than what’s currently being turned out by the studio movie system, which has caused some of Hollywood’s most talented writers and directors and actors to flock to television projects, which has in turn created even better TV. The increasingly popular anthology format allows big actors to sign shorter contracts, only participating for a season of a series, and then being free to make movies or pursue other things rather than being locked in for several seasons at a time.

Audiences interested in viewing material that’s critically-acclaimed increasingly have to go to TV to get it as studios continue to churn out movies that perform horribly with critics. Fans of big-name actors are now turning on the TV to catch their latest projects rather than heading to the movie theaters as many actors are saying that TV is where the best work is. And if all that is happening, why would one spend the money to go to the theater?

“Well, the fact of the matter is that we Baby Boomers really have to look to television now, and not only the performers and the writers, but the audience… And when I was coming up, television was a bad word. Now, it has a cache, and actors are clamoring to go on television because it’s a place that we can do the things we were doing in movies,” Fargo star Billy Bob Thornton told Collider. “You can do terrific work in television now, and have a lot of freedom.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal has had similar things to say about her new role on the international political drama The Honorable Woman. “I think in my own mind there still is a hierarchy,” she recently said to The Guardian, in terms of the old mindset that television is inferior to film. “But then I think, this is better work than I’ve done in my life. I feel more proud of this than anything.”

The breakout crime drama True Detective was one of the year’s most talked about shows, with astounding performances from stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Many, including Harrelson, consider McConaughey’s role as the tortured detective Rust Cohle to be the greatest performance of the actor’s career; even better than the role in the movie Dallas Buyer’s Club which just won him an Oscar.

Those are but a few examples. The legendary director Martin Scorsese has a bunch of exciting work lined up in TV for next year, as does David Fincher, showing that TV is looking appealing to directors as well as actors who want meatier material to work with. Perhaps the thing that movie studios need to do to get people back into the theaters is a simple one; allow filmmakers to take the risks that come along with making better movies. Otherwise audiences interested in quality have little reason to get up off the couch.

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