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Is it the weather, video-piracy, bed-bugs...or stale product..?


This weekend, Scream 4, expected to open near to $50M in the US according to pre-release tracking, flopped with less than $20M. It’s a fun film and probably the best sequel to Wes Craven’s hugely entertaining slasher/ slasher-spoof hit. But why didn’t anyone go and see it?

Scream 4Scream 4 has had endless TV promotion; every ad break, there’s a new trailer asking us for our favourite scary movie. It seems none of us wanted to reply though, as early figures also suggest a mediocre UK launch.

One of the big problems is likely the fact the rest of the year has been littered with a host of teen-skewing box office disappointments. Sucker Punch is one such example, a massively hated, blink and you’ll miss it cinematic entry that everyone wishes they could forget. Scream 4 may be good, but the lack of a teen audience venturing out to see pictures like Snyder's epic fail could’ve cost Scream 4 dearly; if the target audience aren’t going to the movies, they’re less likely to see new trailers and might not turn up.

The Lincoln Laywer (2010)It’s a continuing problem that needs to be addressed by the Hollywood studios. While adult audiences have been turning up in solid numbers for the more mature pictures (Unknown, Limitless, The Adjustment Bureau, The Lincoln Lawyer and Source Code are all doing well), the teen/young adult crowd have been missing in action pretty much since the Black Swan craze died down. Will this have an effect on the big summer movies? Thor is looking like it could disappoint, and there’s a lot of uncertainty with X Men: First Class and Green Lantern, and this weekend's scenario really can’t help but unnerve investors.

It also seems like creatively, the year’s been a bit stale. OK, films like Insidious and the aforementioned adult aimed pictures are getting great reviews, but most critics have been quick to note they’re nothing original. There are (so far) 27 sequels scheduled to be released in 2011. Big Mommas 3 and Scream 4 have been released- and pretty much bombed. Even Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 is doing only medium business. It’s not a reassuring signal for the future releases, especially considering some of the sequels look to be wholly unnecessary; I’d really like to know who’s eagerly anticipating Hoodwinked Too!: Hood Vs. Evil.

It should also be noted that Rango, the year’s most inventive (slightly messed up) film is also the highest grossing. Even The Green Hornet (despite it’s misgivings) is something a little different, and that’s done pretty well for itself too.

Of course it’s OK to like the odd predictable picture (Gnomeo and Juliet and No Strings Attached have been quite successful), but as audiences, we need something new and exciting to keep us going to the movies, staring at the screen with pure wonderment like we always used to. It seems like only the Independent market does this, and that is one business that really isn’t booming.

DVD releases are another huge factor - films are being released on Blu-ray, DVD or online in some instances less than three months after the cinematic release. This is surely preventing some from venturing out to the local multiplex to see new movies- if they don’t look like necessary big screen events (mainly comedies like Hall Pass and The Dilemma), people just aren’t going to see them. And what with the continuing aftershocks of economic crisis, it’s understandable that some would rather just rent a movie for less than half the price of a cinema ticket.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)There are some other issues; television is becoming more and more cinematic in its atmosphere and is producing some really top notch quality entertainment these days. From a choice of a Saturday night movie down at the cinema or a comfy night in watching a HBO/Sky Atlantic drama, many seem to be picking the latter. The weather is certainly a big issue in the UK. Rio did terribly last week on its opening, but has since recovered; the weather was scorching for an April weekend on Rio’s first weekend, but more drab the following week; this most definitely was not a coincidence in terms of its box office performances.

The December 2010 films were unable to score grosses anywhere near Avatar (understandably, that film was something of a surprise, nearly unique success) or even Sherlock Holmes or Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. The Oscar films were solid, but Tron Legacy, Little Fockers and Yogi Bear were dismal in comparison. This certainly didn’t help the year get off to a flying start, something that’s yet to be resolved over 2011.

Additionally, could the bed-bug outbreaks in US cinemas have anything to do with it? I certainly would be unwilling to venture to a cinema infested with them…

This isn’t to say the year won’t recover. Some films have seen successful (the previously mentioned Rango and Green Hornet, as well as Just Go With It and Battle: Los Angeles). Plus, some appealing films are still on the way: Super 8, Bad Teacher, War Horse, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, Now, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Drive, The Tree of Life, Dream House, 50/50, Wanderlust, Contagion… the list goes on. So while business isn’t so great now, it could be a slight case of box office analysts crying wolf, as the year isn’t over yet. Scream 4 represents another disappointment - but hopefully it’ll be one of the last.

Also see:
Five directorial apologies for previous flops
Will 'True Grit' be the film to finally resurrect the Western?

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