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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Hardly anyone went to the movies over Memorial Day weekend: why not?

Worst. Memorial Day. Evah. Well, not ever, but in 17 years. Which means that the last time the box office was this bad over this major weekend, most of Hollywood’s target audience hadn’t quite been born yet.

Neither of the two big newcomers, would-be blockbusters Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time could beat out Shrek Forever After over its second weekend, and even Shrek’s performance was nothing to write home about. (Its huge budget of $165 million hasn’t been busted yet in North America, and good luck to SATC2 — $100 million to produce — and Persia, with its whopping $200 million price tag. Robin Hood cost that much, too. What are these people thinking?)

Via Los Angeles Times blog Company Town:

With new releases “Prince of Persia” and “Sex and the City 2” failing to generate big box office, total movie ticket sales for the four-day holiday weekend were an estimated $186 million, the lowest total since 2001.

Accounting for ticket price inflation, the numbers are much worse. The actual number of tickets sold — about 23.4 million — was the lowest since 1993, according to data compiled by Hollywood.com.

But this is the best part:

Movie studio distribution executives pointed to several factors that may have depressed this weekend’s box office: the NBA and NHL playoffs that this year feature teams from major cities — Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia — and the Indianapolis 500 race. Another possible reason could be the improving economy, as more people have been going on vacation this year compared with last year.

Doesn’t the Indy 500 take place every year on Memorial Day? How could that possibly be a factor? And it’s hilarious that Hollywood thinks the economy is any better: those execs should ask someone who makes less than a milion dollars a year whether the economy has improved.

Still, though, I don’t think we can blame the economy, whether it’s still bad or getting better. The Great Depression was much worse than things are now, and that era was still the busiest one for Hollywood, by far.

When I look at what was on offer this weekend, I don’t see much to get excited about: the films that ended up in the top five are three sequels (Iron Man 2 was in there, too), one retelling of a familiar story, and one videogame transfer. Who can get worked up about these movies?

What do you think? Hardly anyone went to the movies over Memorial Day weekend: why not?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • markyd

    I love how none of their excuses had anything to do with the dire movie selection. There is simply nothing exciting out now(beyond IM2 anyway, and that’s a few weeks old).
    I haven’t been to the theater since seeing How to Train Your Dragon a couple months ago. Great movie, but my movie-loving fire hasn’t been stoked since then. It doesn’t look good for the rest of the summer either.
    Not to mention that fact that I prefer to watch movies at home nowadays. I’ve got a pretty good setup, and no one bothers me. I just wish I didn’t have to wait several months for the rare movie I DO want to see to come out for home viewing.

  • Nate

    When I look at what was on offer this weekend, I don’t see much to get excited about: the films that ended up in the top five are three sequels (Iron Man 2 was in there, too), one retelling of a familiar story, and one videogame transfer. Who can get worked up about these movies?

    Bingo.

    May didn’t have much to offer this year. The only movie that was really generating much pre-release buzz was Iron Man 2.

    Fortunately June’s releases look a bit more diverse.

  • Michael

    As a friend said to me the other day: “Don’t they usually release movies people want to see on Memorial Day weekend?”

    This year’s selections were a big honkin’ “meh.”

  • Sapphire

    I agree about the dreary selection of films so far this summer. “Iron Man 2” really is the only film to truly please the masses, even if it wasn’t as strong as its predecessor. And notably, it didn’t inflate its grosses with 3D surcharges, which the year’s other big hits have; while it did have 2D IMAX locations, it surrendered those to “Shrek Forever After” after two weeks.

    Also worth noting about “Shrek Forever After”‘s woes is that the other movies in the series didn’t have 3D surcharges…so audiences are clearly bored with the franchise.

    The only movie I’m really keyed for this summer, now that “IM2” has come and gone, is “Toy Story 3”.

  • Alli

    I finally saw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Monday night. Yes it takes that long for foreign films to reach my hometown. Anyway, I just wasn’t interested in seeing anything else.

    Fortunately June’s releases look a bit more diverse.

    I was looking at the list of movies being released this month, and nothing excited me. In fact, the only movie I want to see this summer is Inception. Maybe Scott Pilgrim vs. The World too, but I don’t know if I really want to see it in theaters.

  • Nate

    I was looking at the list of movies being released this month, and nothing excited me. In fact, the only movie I want to see this summer is Inception. Maybe Scott Pilgrim vs. The World too, but I don’t know if I really want to see it in theaters.

    Not even Toy Story? Boo…

  • RyanT

    Nate and Alli above just named the three movies I’ll be checking out this summer (Inception, Toy Story 3, and Scott Pilgrim). The rest is one big snooze-fest.

  • The Great Depression was much worse than things are now, and that era was still the busiest one for Hollywood, by far.

    True.

    Then again movie-goers had fewer reasonably priced alternatives to movies back then.

    Plus some movies–believe it or not–were generally good enough that they actually encouraged people to see them over and over again. All too many movies nowadays seem to have so much invested in sidelines like music soundtracks, ad tie-ins, videogames and fast food toys that it’s a wonder they bothered to complete the movie.

    Plus it’s hard to feel any real urgency to go see a movie that’s going to be in the video store within a few months and at the local library within less than a year.

    Plus movies were still a novelty during the Great Depression. Today they aren’t.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    The fact that Robin Hood cost $200 million is absolutely boggling to me. Ninety per cent of the movie takes place in forests and castles, and they shot it in the UK, where we’ve got plenty of both. I grant you there are some war scenes which probably didn’t come cheap, but where did the other one hundred and eighty-five million dollars go?

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