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Why Did So Many Movies Bomb This Summer in 2023?

A lot of movies have come and gone this blockbuster season. Some of hit but a lot have missed. Why is that? Read to find out!

Spiderman shoots webs
Credit: Sony

It’s been a weird blockbuster season for movies this summer. There have been plenty of critical and financial hits across the board. Such as Barbie, Oppenheimer, Across the Spider-Verse, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume: 3, etc. However, there have been an equal amount of bombs this summer. Not limited to Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Elemental, The Flash, and so on. Safe to say, it’s been a stacked roster of movies. Why did some of them bomb?

What Was The Variety of Movies Like?

2023 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The turtles getting ratted out, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem, Credit: Paramount

The variety in movies this summer has been an interesting bunch. While yes, there were a ton of franchise movies that came out in rapid succession. Such as all the superhero movies, a couple of remakes, and some continuing sagas for good measure. There were also a ton of movies not tied to anything that did well. Such as Asteroid City, Elemental, and a couple of others. So the problem isn’t necessarily as simple as a lack of original ideas.

Even with the movies that continued a franchise, a lot of them looked and felt unique from each other. Spider-Verse didn’t look like TMNT: Mutant Mayhem. Asteroid City doesn’t look like Haunted Mansion. A lot of these movies properly stood out from each other. So what’s the deal here? Why did a lot of these movies fall flat on their faces?

The reason that some of these movies didn’t do as well as others is a combination of factors related to the movies themselves, the way they were marketed, and other external factors. The reason something fails is multifaceted, and it’s never as simple as some outlets claim it is. What really made this summer a bloodbath for movies was fierce competition and a changing conversation on the nature of what audiences enjoy.

So What Did Well This Summer?

Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken
Barbie and Ken talking, Barbie, Credit: Warner Bros

There’s a multitude of movies that did well relative to their budget this summer. Some were mega franchises with their new releases. While others were smaller movies that did well according to their budget. Others did crazy well. First things first, the biggest superhero outings of this summer were obviously Across the Spider-Verse and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume: 3. Those movies proved their existence to audiences by providing unique takes on the superhero genre, and a clear focus on characters. They looked great, had well-told stories, and most importantly, made big money. If you want to see the numbers for Guardians, click the link here! If you want to see the numbers for Spider-Verse, click the link here!

However, they weren’t the biggest splashes this summer. Obviously, Barbie was the victor of the blockbuster competition. Mainly because of its clever story, phenomenal marketing, and the lucky break of its social media blitz with Oppenheimer. That meme was not only crucial to both movies’ success but also the fact that the general age range for both of those movies was the same. They both attracted teens and adults, which was the demographic of both movies. If you want to see the numbers for Barbie, click the link here! If you want to see the numbers for Oppenheimer, click the link here!

What’s important to take away from the biggest success stories of this summer is that all the movies that did well or relatively well have the same qualities. They all are creatively unique, and driven films with a message and a theme that’s made apparently clear. They don’t feel like merely brand extensions or advertisements. They’re movies in their own right.

What Movies Didn’t Do as Well?

Elemental Characters
Ember and wade meeting for the first time, Elemental, Credit: Pixar

So after that explanation on what movies did well, it seems obvious why some movies didn’t right? Movies that simply feel like brand extensions or didn’t do anything new are obvious candidates. While this is true, it’s only to some extent. Movies like The Haunted Mansion, The Flash, and Indiana Jones did bomb. A lot of the reasons cited for their failures are that they are okay to terrible in terms of quality. The marketing wasn’t there for a lot of them as well. The Flash’s rea failure is a list that reaches the end of DC’s universe the Source Wall. Generally, it seems like the movies that failed were not trying to say anything and were kind of meh. That’s not the whole story. If you want to see the numbers for The Flash, click the link here!

Elemental was one of the most interesting stories to come out of this blockbuster season. Pixar’s latest outing initially seemed dead on arrival. It was losing money in the box office and seemed to be another flop for Disney. However, it actually ended up making 400 million dollars against a 200 million dollar budget and a presumed marketing budget of the same size. This is huge, as this movie looked to be another bomb. If you want to see the numbers for Elemental, click the link here!

This is interesting, as the last few Pixar outings have been Disney Plus exclusive. 2022’s Lightyear and 2023’s Elemental are the latest Pixar movies to be in theaters and they both didn’t do that well. A lot of people are under the assumption the viewing habits regarding Pixar are now tied to Disney Plus, which remains to be seen. All in all, the summer blockbuster scene is an interesting piece to study.

So What’s the Message Here?

Alien characters in Guardians of the Galaxy
Mantis pointing at Drax, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume: 3, Credit: Marvel

We are currently in a very interesting transitional period when it comes to movies. Not just because of the strikes currently going on. What audiences want is changing. The Disney remakes aren’t doing as hot, some superhero stuff is failing. Nothing is as it really seems. The whole industry is flipped on its head right now. Most of that has to do with the summer blockbuster season and the streaming wars.

What’s to take away from all this? While I don’t think we’ll get a clear answer for a while, what’s clear is this. The biggest winners this summer relative to their budgets, were creatively driven movies. Things that did something new tended to do well. However, covid still has a lot of baggage to unpack and we’re learning that as we go on. What we do know, is that things are gonna stay this way for a long, long time until the strikes are resolved.

If you want to read about something creepy since Halloween is coming up, then check out this article here!

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