Hollywood watchers are talking about a summer box office lower than 2007, so far. What’s going on? The speculation is that this summer’s box office hasn’t seen a really good original movie since last year’s “The Hangover,” “Up,” and “The Proposal.” It’s said that the surprise hits drive the movie theater business. We are seeing signs of a recovery with “Toy Story 3” leading the way albeit it is not an original hit itself.
Right now, that sense of excitement and high expectation is missing in action. The best way to gauge moviegoer dissatisfaction is by looking at how the current crop of summer movies have performed with CinemaScore, the firm whose poll of opening-night moviegoers around the country has become a leading industry barometer to assess a film’s word of mouth. If a movie gets an A, it will likely have a long and prosperous stay in the theaters. But if it gets a B or worse, its prospects are limited, since a B from opening-night audiences is a lot like a C from regular fans. As CinemaScore founder Ed Mintz told me when I interviewed him last year, he often feels as if he’s grading on a curve. If a film gets a B from its most hard-core fans (the people who show up to see a film on opening night), then it probably would only earn lukewarm support from less loyal fans who would take more of a wait-and-see approach about making a trip to the theaters to see it.
We could be seeing a backlash to 3D films, too, that do not have the spatial qualities of Avatar but are nonetheless charging 3D prices. But as Mr. Goldstein indicated “reworked ideas and retro-fitted story lines” don’t remind audiences “why they started going to movies in the first place.” Stay tuned.