One word to describe the 2013 box office so far - anemic. 2013 is off to a terrible start and things aren't looking too much better before the summer. So far, 2013 has brought in $1.473 billion domestically. A billion dollars is a lot of dollars, but when it comes to the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry, this is chump change. January was poor and February was the lowest grossing since 2002; 11 years ago. The low gross also means that January and February were even lower in attendance. Frost is forming on theater seats.
Only 1 movie from January and February, Identity Theft, has and will cross $100 million. Last year we had 3. Silver Linings Playbook, Django, Les Miz, and Life of Pi have crossed $100 million this year, but they are 2012 movies, so they don't count.
2012 started off on a shockingly great pace. February and March set gross records and if it wasn't for 2009's Avatar, 2010's January record could have been broken too. February 2012 ranked 4th in all time attendance and March ranked 2nd. The "people don't go to the movies anymore" argument still isn't valid, at least it wasn't last year. So why? Why in just one year has the market shifted back to the doldrums? Not only did 2012 start on a strong note, but it ended on one as 2012 set a new November record.
To start, Hollywood has been churning out crappy movies. And crappy is saying it lightly; I can't say the real definition here. (children readers). This isn't my opinion; this is fact. Of 24 wide releases so far, 21 have been rated rotten and only THREE movies have been rated fresh. In order for a movie to be rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, 60% or more of the critics that reviewed the movie have to give it a positive review. Ticket prices are ever increasing and people are more cautious of what movies they spend money on. Some horrible movies do succeed, but if its horrible movie after horrible movie every weekend, it gets tired. Critic reviews are opinionated and not everyone thinks the movies are bad; Identity Theft only has 24% on RT, but its 2013's highest grosser by far, but in general, the movies are dissatisfying. A Good Day to Die Hard is a big example.
Movies are a family affair. The studios aren't getting the hint. There has only been one nationwide family release this year; Escape to Planet Earth. Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful is being released next week and should tap into the family market, but it is still not enough. There have been zero G rated movies and one PG rated movie so far this year. There has been at least one R rated release every week this year, and some weekends this year all releases were rated R. Hollywood needs to change this fast. Many Americans don't want to keep seeing so much violence, especially after all the real life violence that has been going on lately. TV is also violent so why go to theater to watch more violence? Basically, stop with a shoot-em-up, blow-em-up, chop-em-up movie every Friday; mix the market up to appeal to everyone.
The economy, winter weather, higher prices, low quality movies, too many R rated movies, not enough family movies, piracy, Redbox and Netflix are all contributing to the lower grosses in some way. Some people are now opting to wait 5 months on a movie so they can pay $1 to rent or watch it streaming at home. Who's paying $10 for Broken City when reviews say its just like every other movie of its genre? Is Bullet to the Head really an appropriate and appealing title? This is the from the same studio that took "killer" out of Jack the Giant Killer and replaced it with "slayer." Do people want to see Texas Chainsaw 14 that's no different from Texas Chainsaw 1-13? The answer right now is a majority "no." Just look at the grosses. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Statham, Hollywood's "action captain's", fell flat.
2012 was the same way with an R rated movie coming out every weekend, but the market was more diverse; especially the February 10th weekend. March will be the on the stronger side, but it's not too promising. Oz has an epic scope, but that doesn't guarantee epic grosses. GI Joe: Retaliation looks leagues above Rise of Cobra, but if it does break out, it will help April more than March. The Host could be the new Twilight, but it could also be Beautiful Creatures. After the disappointing run of Rise of the Guardians, The Croods is under pressure. Every other March release looks average and the March 1st-3rd weekend will be a disappointment based on Friday estimates.
2013 is not doomed. 2012 started off elite, but then went back to decade low weekends, then rebounded in November. 2013's summer looks stronger than 2012's, but if March and April don't shape up, 2013 won't come close to a record. Take a look at the 2013 summer schedule; it will be extremely interesting.
It's still early and 2013 has a long way to go, so we'll see what happens. I did an article in August 2012 when that year was going on it's landslide, so hopefully 2013 will strive for an uphill climb. Hollywood has the power, they have to make it happen. 2013, I believe in you.