Cinema is in a weird place right now. Lots of people say that movies just aren’t like they used to be. They just aren’t good anymore. Which I want to dispute. I think there is a combination of things at play that led to where we are as an audience and where film studios are right now.
For the past 15 years superhero blockbusters have been dominating the box office. According to Box office mojo by IMDB, 4 out of the 10 highest grossing movies of all time are superhero movies, all from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Though, recently in the past year or so superhero films have been nowhere near as popular. Movies that were supposed to be sure fire hits like ‘The Flash’ flopped terribly at the box office. According to Dexerto, Warner Brother Studios lost 260 million dollars just from ‘The Flash’.
According to statista.com 41% of people say that they rarely go to the movies. 31% said that they sometimes go to the movies. If someone were to rarely go to the movies, let’s say they go 1 or 2 times a year. They probably only go to the theater to see something that they really know is going to entertain them and that they are going to enjoy, so they don’t feel that they are wasting their money. So, the obvious choice is the movie part of the universe that has entertained you for the past 10 years and has characters you already enjoy and like.
When the only movies that someone has watched in theaters for the past 15 years is all part of the same universe, made by the same people, using the same formula, at a certain point you are going to gain fatigue from that. The audience is going to get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. But this fatigue is widespread among the entire pop culture. According to The Deadline, 36% of Marvel fans are “getting a little tired” of all the content they are expected to consume from Marvel.
You might be thinking, “Well if we are so tired of these movies, why does it feel like there isn’t anything else good to watch?”. The answer is that there are a million good movies to watch. There are incredible writers and directors working today making incredible work. For example, Sean Baker, Damien Chazelle, Greta Gerwig, and many more. That’s not to mention the big names like Speilberg who still is making incredible movies like ‘The Fablemans’ but even he, with his prestigious name can’t get people to the theater. The studio A24’s entire catalog is proof of this.
There are a few things that are making it seem like there isn’t anything else to watch. The first reason is that, in general, people don’t want to try new things. The new generation has grown up with these superhero movies. This is all that they really know the movie going experience to be. So, trying something new is scary and uncomfortable, especially when you have to spend money, people would rather just stay home.
Another reason is marketing. These smaller movies don’t have the marketing budgets that these huge franchise movies have. People don’t really usually know that these really amazing movies are coming out, or even exist. For example, online everyone always says that they want the 2000’s blockbuster comedies to come back like Superbad, or 21 jump street. Well this past year the movie Bottoms came out and it is exactly that. It has great reviews. It is hilarious and crazy and a super fun time. But no one saw it because it is scary to try something new. Bottoms’s budget was 11.3 million according to Deadline. The budget for the Flash was 300 million dollars according to CBR. Small movies just don’t have the money to compete in the ad space with movies like The Flash even if Bottoms is better and more people would probably like it more than the Flash.
Disney and Marvel hit a gold mine with the MCU and all they want to do is keep that going for as long as possible. They figured out a way to make it so that casual moviegoers only went to see their movies. Which lead them to having 4 out of the 10 highest grossing movies of all time. The audience that has grown up only ever going to the movies to see superhero movies now doesn’t watch anything outside of that sub-genre of movies. This is why cinema is in such a weird state. The movies haven’t been getting worse, the audience has been tunnel visioned by one genre.