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The 1 Reason Media Won’t Cite for Bad Box Office

Hollywood is having a lousy summer, and there’s no relief in sight.

Domestic box office revenue for the season is trailing last year by 11 percent and none of the major releases still coming are expected to change that trajectory. In fact, things are likely to get worse for U.S. studios before the leaves change. Without a film debuting widely over the Labor Day weekend, BoxOffice Media predicts the film industry will end the summer of 2017 with sales down by up to 15 percent.

The ugly numbers inspired the usual array of think pieces pointing to several suspects.

  • Social Media
  • RottenTomatoes.com
  • Poor product

There’s a problem with those theories, particularly the first two. Both social media and Rotten Tomatoes have been readily available for years. That’s not to say they don’t impact interest in a particular film.

They do.

But they did last year, too. And the year before. So why do they suddenly hold such sway over our film choices?

And while this summer showcased a one-two punch of rancid movies (“The Mummy” and “Transformers: The Last Knight”) the season produced a number of solid blockbusters (“Wonder Woman.” “The Fate of the Furious”) and original treats (“Baby Driver,” “The Big Sick”).

RELATED: 5 Critical Lessons from ‘Snatched’ Box Office Fizzle

Esquire.com coined “dazzle fatigue” as part of the problem. Too many noisy blockbusters squeezed into one modest space. As theories go, we’ve heard much worse.

So what’s missing? The one theory makes more sense than most, even if it can’t be measured in any traditional sense. And, of course, it involves the man who’s been sucking the oxygen out of the news cycle for the past seven months.

Only you can’t blame President Donald Trump for this. He’s actually the victim here. Or, to be more precise, those who pulled the lever for him last November.

‘He’s Hitler!’ Lather, Rinse Repeat

Hollywood’s insane reaction to Trump’s ascent may be coaxing customers to skip the multiplex this summer.

Here’s the rub:

Many Americans who lean right, support Trump or check both boxes are aghast at what Hollywood has been up to for the past year. They’ve read the tweets, seen the interviews, watched the smug videos telling them how to vote and heard stars directly attack their candidate.

He’s Hitler. And you’re a Nazi for supporting him. Amy Schumer called Trump voters KKK members (guess which comedy star saw her 2017 film tank at the box office?) Michael Shannon told a reporter Trump votters were ready “for the urn.”

More recently, “Scandal” star Joshua Malina called Trump voters homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynistic and transphobic.

This only intensified following the cowardly attack on protesters over the weekend in Charlottesville. Suddenly, stars like Mark Ruffalo are calling out Trump and his supporters (again) in the ugliest ways possible.

But please see our movies! See the disconnect?

Anecdotal, but Telling

This reporter is very active on social media. For the past year I’ve seen and heard conservatives rail against Hollywood like never before. They’ve had it. The celebrity rhetoric is too much – too mean, too alienating and sometimes too ill-informed.

And social media amplifies every last message coming from Tinsel Town. You can’t miss it. Select Red State dwellers wouldn’t mind sending a message by refusing to directly support Hollywood product.

It couldn’t be easier, too.

Want to see a movie in 2017? Parents have to arrange for a sitter for a night at the movies. Teens have to pool their cash to pay for the increasingly high prices of the average ticket. Families eager for an afternoon of air-conditioned fun get sticker shock at the concession stand.

That doesn’t mention those unruly patrons talk through movies, yapping to each other or on their cell phones.

Life Is But a Stream

So why aren’t we seeing a stark plunge with TV show consumption? HBO’s “Game of Thrones” keeps drawing viewers in, and everyone is taking about the latest Netflix originals.

It’s simple. Watching TV or streaming devices takes virtually no effort. A few calculated clicks and you’re suddenly asked to choose between hundreds of shows for a fraction of the price you’d pay at the theater.

Who could resist?

Now, compare that to going to the movies. Many right-leaning Americans are saying, “thanks, but no thanks.” The fact that it might send a message to an industry hostile to their world view is icing on the outrage cake.

Some may not actively wish to boycott Hollywood. But it’s a breeze to say, “what about seeing a movie?” and decide on a half dozen home-based options instead.

Battling an Ugly Stereotype

Now, there are many stars who don’t say a peep about politics. A much smaller group are magnanimous toward President Trump (see Jeff Bridges and Tom Hanks for solid examples).

The industry’s image, as a whole, is another story. Conservatives think “Hollywood” and they imagine an elitist group smiting their world views, their candidates … their values. So even if a film features a gaggle of stars who are respectful of others’ views it’s too late. The stereotype has taken hold.

You can point to a number of reasons for the sluggish summer ticket sales. Just don’t ignore the political factor. It’s real, and it may be growing.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

92 Comments

  1. You mean it might be imprudent to tell half or more of your potential customers that they are stupid or bigots or both for holding views standard 24 months ago? Could also be that the several lefties with standards don’t like this phenomenon either.

  2. Tom Hanks blew it this week when he proactively stated he would not accept an invitation from Trump to go to the White House for a viewing of “The Post” if it was offered. That’s all it took for me to decide to not spend my money to see the movie.

  3. Tom Hanks is “magnanimous” toward non-democrat party members? Since when? Or is that in comparison to democrat party spite-spewers like Damon and Affleck, Clooney and Baldwin, O’Donnell and Streisand, Cher and Streep, and almost all the rest?

  4. Plus the fact that movies just plain suck. Not an intelligent, interesting one out there. Add the fact that these no-nothing actors insist on lecturing me every chance they get. Who needs it?

  5. I still go see a couple or three movies each year, but I cheat!. To make sure a Leftist like Matt Damon, Sean Penn, George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson don’t get a penny from my watching their movies, I buy ticket to some other movie showing at about the same time.

    Yea……..I’m being a hypocrit just like these RICH Hollywood Commies!

  6. It would seem to be easy to cross-index movie theaters and movies by red/blue county and prove or disprove the theory. Such a thing is obvious to any big business and thus I have to assume has been done, since we haven’t seen any thing like that publicly suggests that maybe the studio execs don’t like the results.

  7. Tom Hanks is “magnanimous” towards Trump? Seriously, dude? Let’s see: Already this month, Hanks has refused to screen “The Post “at the White House and said that President Trump’s attacks on the media bear a resemblance to tactics used by repressive governments to sow distrust and disdain for the press.

    1. That was my reaction too. Hanks is a major democrat party fascist. C Toto has been too long in tinseltown if Tom Hanks appears magnanimous.

  8. The last movie I saw in a theater was “Yogi Bear” back in 2010. I really enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve had no interest.

  9. “That doesn’t mention those unruly patrons who talk through movies, yapping to each other or on their cell phones..”
    And most of THEM are Obama’s sons.

  10. Poorly written and executed article. It is an idea for an article with no supporting evidence–not even anecdotal anonymous quotes. I’d like to hear from those who may be boycotting Hollywood.

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