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Summer Movie Crash

Hollywood's summer was a bummer at the box office, but 50+ viewers could be key to recovery

Summer Movie Crash

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Hollywood is heavily relying on comic book action movies and existing franchises to fill seats.

The summer movie season's top five moneymakers included just one film aimed at a grownup audience — the World War II drama Dunkirk. With Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Despicable Me 3 taking the top four slots — in that order — it's clear that Hollywood is looking no further than comic book action movies and existing franchises to fill seats.

And while it's not unusual that just one of the summer's big hits would have grownup appeal, it is too bad. "Perhaps Hollywood should treat the summer more like the fall season, and release more movies of quality that appeal to older viewers, when they have more leisure time and interest," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, a media measurement and analytics company. 

Overall the summer box office was the worst in 25 years, with a number of flops — such as The Mummy, Alien: Covenant, Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — contributing to lower-than-projected ticket sales. Theater owners lost more than $1 billion in stock value in August, when revenues were down 34 percent from last year. What's going on besides too many bad movies?

With so many entertainment options widely available, there are definite challenges. Some industry experts say filmmakers should pay more attention to quality and serve audiences they’ve neglected in the quest for sequel dollars. What sold in 2017 were good films with a legitimate claim on an audience — even tiny, profitable hits like Baby Driver and The Big Sick. The No. 1 blockbuster — Wonder Woman, which made more than $400 million — proved women could triumph in three crucial aspects of the art of film: starring, directing and smart moviegoing.

Why doesn’t the industry try doing for grownup filmgoers what Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot did for women? “Women have for years been making up the difference of the lost revenue from their couchbound, game-loving male counterparts. Women are looking for thoughtful movies."

One thing’s for sure, says Dergarabedian: “Studios may find that overlooking more mature potential moviegoers could prove to be a costly mistake in the long run.”

Tim Appelo is AARP's Movies For Grownups editor. Follow him on Twitter: @timappelo

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