As I sit here writing this column on April 15th Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire currently has 66 trails open for skiing. What in the world does this fact have to do with a summer movie boxoffice column? Excellent question.
I bring this up because, despite what skiers in the Granite State or baseball fans in Chicago, Boston or Detroit think, Hollywood’s summer now officially begins at the end of this month—yes less than two weeks from now—with the “Avengers: Infinity War” juggernaut, which by the way is enjoying pre-sales that exceed even those for “Black Panther”. So yes, despite the chilly temperatures and baseball game snow-outs now is the time to set our sights on the most lucrative season of the year for Hollywood and cinema owners.
As most analysts see it, this summer looks to be one of the stronger ones in the last few years, hopefully better than last summer which suffered a debilitating bout of sequelitis which lasted until a deranged clown saved us (albeit temporarily) in September. The aforementioned “Avengers” is projected to open north of USD $200 million on its way to at least replicating the last instalment’s mark of USD $459 million domestic and USD $946 million internationally that “Age of Ultron” was able to amass.
After that we dive headfirst into a whirlwind of tentpole titles in May, specifically “Deadpool 2” on May 18th and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” on Memorial Day here in the States, both of which are poised to top USD $300 million domestically. The rest of the summer features a collection of familiar franchise offerings with new episodes of the “Mission: Impossible”, “Jurassic World” and “Ant-Man” franchises. In addition, there are certainly the requisite number of animated titles that should do, well, what animated titles do every summer. Grosses for all these films may be up slightly or down a bit but they probably won’t be the determining factor on whether it’s a successful summer or not. Not this year.
No, these megabudgeted tentpoles will not be what makes or breaks the summer for cinema owners in 2018 and one look at the season’s release schedule shows exactly what I mean. From this coming Friday (we’ll start things a week early with Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty”) until the end of summer in late August there are ten, yes ten, films aimed specifically or primarily at a female audience. That is unprecedented in recent Hollywood history. This summer will feature films headed by a virtual who’s-who of female boxoffice stars such as Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Jane Fonda, Rebel Wilson, Amanda Seyfried, Mila Kunis, Anna Farris, Michelle Williams, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Kate McKinnon, Diane Keaton and Melissa McCarthy – not once but twice.
We always seem to have a “trend” in Hollywood each summer. Put the exploding tentpoles off to the side and you’ll notice themes every summer season. In recent years we have seen Hollywood stock up on R rated comedies only to watch them fall one after the other like dominoes in an earthquake. Last year it was the Attack of the Unwanted Remakes. But for each of these recent trends that have failed we have experienced many summers of testosterone fuelled action offerings which worked early and often throughout the season or a slew of horror titles, all of which enjoyed successful ROIs.
These “next level” summer films are more often than not what decides whether we remember summer fondly or not as the leaves change and we report Q2 and Q3 revenues. This year is no exception and it’s clear that female moviegoers are going to be the deciding vote as to whether exhibitors from the Big Three here in the States all the way down to the Century Theatre in Ft Kent, Maine and the Cresco Theatre in Cresco, Iowa reach Labor Day with smiles on their collective faces or not.
The titles come rapid fire, starting with “I Feel Pretty” this Friday, followed by Anna Farris’ “Overboard” remake on May 4th, then Melissa McCarthy’s first crack at the boxoffice safe with “Life of the Party” on May 11th, followed by Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton in “Book Club”.
Things heat up even more in June with June 8th’s reboot of “Ocean’s 8” with a Thanksgiving table’s worth of female stars, followed by Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” remake entitled “The Hustle” on June 29th.
Much of the cast is back on July 20 for “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” with Meryl and Co., followed by the August comedies “The Spy Who Dumped Me” starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy (again) in “The Happytime Murders” and rounding out the summer there is “Crazy Rich Asians”, based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling book.
Here’s the key. Get a female audience into the early summer comedies that feature funny women and have them watch the trailers for all of the rest of the summer offerings aimed at women as well. Then keep that going with all of the aforementioned films. Bombard them with trailers, one-sheets, Girls Night Out promo nights, special dine-in theatre cocktails, etc. I watched it work to perfection when I was at STX with “Bad Moms”. We secured trailer placement on other female comedies earlier in the summer and we sat back and watched our tracking go through the roof and exhibitors looked in with delight as presales on the film ran amuck. Success begets success, especially when it’s within the same cinematic genre.
Sorry boys, you’ll have to step aside and watch as the women of comedy are in charge this summer season.
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