The Lone Ranger's historic flop this weekend was either entirely shocking (it really was historic) or entirely predictable (westerns often disappoint at the box office). But behind every $225 million bet, you can bet there are reasons. Indeed, the economics of betting a lot of money on a few loud movies a year are tantalizingly clear.
So here, with a little dose of data, is why studios feel encouraged to fill your summer with loud, dumb sequels and reboots.
The globalization of cinema means less explosive dialogue and more explosive everything else.
The future of the movie industry is overseas. Full stop. Between 2009 and 2012, the U.S. and Canadian box office grew by slightly less than two percent. The international box office grew by 27 percent in that time, and it now accounts for more than two-thirds of total sales, according to the MPAA.
What does this have to do with bad summer blockbusters? Well, the conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that clever jokes don't translate well for an international audience, whose biggest and fastest growing presence is in Asia. But familiar characters and/or explosions? They translate just fine.
Without 3-D, the domestic box office might be shrinking.
The domestic box office might not be growing at all if it weren't for producers re-discovering an extra dimension. Here and in Canada, practically all the growth in box office revenue has come from the 3D box office, a data point that is not lost on Hollywood producers desperately seeking hits.