With every summer comes a new batch of highly anticipated movie releases. From the mega-budgeted blockbusters and the independent film division alike, there was a ton of variety this summer. Audiences seemingly noticed the redemption of the “studio comedy” with films like “No Hard Feelings,” “Theater Camp” and more recently, “Bottoms” climbing the box office charts with critical acclaim. This summer, Tom Cruise defied human odds with his barbaric stunt work in “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part 1” Miles Morales swung back into theaters with “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”. And moviegoers attempted the legendary “Barbenheimer” for the films “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”.
However, in terms of box office numbers, some of these mega-budgeted blockbusters caused a shift in the film industry. Films with ballooning budgets like: “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny,” “The Flash” and “Haunted Mansion” all had a stellar cast in front and behind the camera, but struggled to break even, some even falling short of their budget. This could mean a number of reasons outside these films ballooning budgets, but audience interest as well.
Disney and every superhero subsidiary that’s not Sony Animation had a difficult time receiving strong word-of-mouth publicity. Why make an “Indiana Jones” movie without Steven Spielberg? Ezra Miller’s actions prior to “The Flash’s” release made me uncomfortable … is the film even good? And do we really need yet another live-action Disney remake? Yes, the idea of “what’s the point?” when starting pre-production on sequels/remakes/reboots is the first roadblock for any filmmaker and studio. But I think it’s fairly bleak to say the least of these films, pointless in their attempts or not, are given such massive budgets but do not even fit the price tag. “Avatar: The Way of Water” was a film released last year, nearly 13 years in the making, with a budget of nearly $250 million dollars due to new advancements in technology and filmmaking, and it shows! Hence why the film has garnered critical and commercial acclaim.
To preview upcoming releases in the fall, outside of the “awards-worthy” Oscar contenders, not much is bringing people back to the movies. And now with the ongoing actor’s union strike hitting just four days under the 150-day mark, this unrest in the film industry will remain until the actors are paid fairly and their demands met. On Sunday, Sept. 24, the Writer’s Guild of America announced they reached an agreement and while their strike might be ending soon, the industry’s unrest will remain until both writers and actors are paid fairly and given solidarity. Nearly all major film and television productions are halting until the strike is over (outside of independent films as those were given the interim agreement). This is a shame after Tom Cruise “brought back the movies” with 2022’s “Top Gun: Maverick”. The realm in the film medium was looking pretty hopeful for the return of event blockbusters with persistence in practical filmmaking.
To echo my previous statement about audience interest, moviegoers are tired. They are tired of watching the same type of movie with familiar narrative structures, characters, humor and special effects. They crave something different, something nobody has attempted before. And while this could come down to expanding your film palette, it’s also about studios being afraid to take risks. In the 1970s and even 2000s until the early 2010s, there was a time when studios wanted to take leaps of faith in filmmaking to gain audience interest. Not only was the name of the game about the box office reception, but also favorable audience reception as well. If only we could bring back pioneering filmmakers who took those risks with pride back to the limelight. With studios caring about the craftsmen who make it happen.