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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

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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