This has been a brutal summer for blockbusters, with some of the usual models of modern Hollywood hit-making showing signs of cracking. Mostly it’s been bad for franchises, and even would-be franchises. Comic book movies have been strong as ever, as witness “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Wonder Woman.” But the old guard — the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Alien: Covenant” — has been greeted with shrugs, seen only by dutiful fans, like boomers who feel compelled to go see the latest Grand Funk reunion. New franchise-starters (“King Arthur,” “Baywatch,” “The Mummy”) proved DOA. But don’t think audiences are clamoring for new ideas. Exhibit A: “Rough Night,” the latest all-girl comedy, was outgrossed this weekend by a cheapie in which Mandy Moore battles a shark.
Of the four new major releases — including the afore-mentioned aquatic thriller “47 Meters Down,” which grabbed fifth place with $11.5 million — “Rough Night” came in last, grossing a mere $8 million. That’s considerably less than the $33 million that greeted last summer’s big girls-gone-wild yuk-fest, “Bad Moms.” This would be a depressing blow to female-driven fare were it not for “Wonder Woman,” which, with another $40 million added to its haul, surrendered the top slot to “Cars 3,” but managed to fend off “All Eyez on Me,” the 2Pac movie, which overcame poor reviews to nab third place with $27 million. And remember: the year’s highest-grosser is “Beauty and the Beast,” a movie aimed primarily at girls.
Still, it’s a little depressing. The summer season’s first lady-led comedy, “Snatched,” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, has crawled to a mere $45 million since bowing six months ago — down considerably from "Trainwreck" two years ago. If “Girls Trip,” due on July 21, tanks, too, Hollywood may not want to fork over even the modest sum they tend to use for comedies. (“Rough Night” only cost $20 million, though “Snatched” was made for twice that.) And then we’ll get into yet another tiresome discussion about whether women are funny, and how they can only kick ass or romance neurotic monster-men.
Also a bit of a downer: It’s the second Scarlett Johansson movie in a row to be ignored by movieogers, after March’s “Ghost in the Shell.” We maintain that Johansson’s one of Hollywood’s most interesting actresses out there, and its best at playing non-human or humanoid characters. (Her last headlining smash, “Lucy,” was as much of an acting challenge as was “Under the Skin,” in which she did a master class in how to play an alien.) This may be her box office poison period, ala Katharine Hepburn in the '30s, where her only hits are when she does voice work (“Sing”) or is simply the best part of a superheroic ensemble (the Marvel films). This one-two punch of bombs may make the Black Widow solo movie that more unlikely.
In other box office news, “Cars 3” did indeed claim the top spot, but its $53 million haul was down some $13 million from “Cars 2” six years back. Still, don’t think franchises are dead; though it fell some 56 percent to fourth place in its second week, “The Mummy” is only a dud in America. This weekend the Tom Cruise vehicle came close to crossing the $300 million mark internationally. Who knows what moviegoers want these days?