Words like disappointing, dismal and other disparaging words beginning with the letter “d” have been used to describe the summer’s box office yield.
In movieland the summer season is defined as the first Friday in May through Labor Day Weekend, a period that saw revenues fall to an eight year low, down 15% from 2013.
There were some very big hits, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Transformers: Age of Extinction, but even their multi-million dollar grosses weren’t enough to compete with last year’s $4.75 billion overall take.
“We’ve seen this before,” says Michael Kennedy, Executive Vice President, Filmed Entertainment at Cineplex. “Right now everybody’s binging. After a while they will get tired of binge watching TV and say, ‘I’m really tired of being in my house. I want to go out.’”
Kennedy adds that the summer slump could also be attributed to several high profile absences.
“Pixar was originally scheduled to go in the summer with a film that got moved back and Fast and Furious was supposed to go but after Paul Walker’s accident they moved the movie back and nobody replaced it. One or two movies move and millions disappear.”
So how does it work? How do studios and distributors determine a release schedule? Mongrel Media’s Director of Marketing Danish Vahidy says studios put “down the tent pole for flagship properties one, two or sometimes three years in advance. With the success of sequels studios feel more secure planning in advance for franchises rather than an unknown entity.”
That means the wannabe blockbusters from this summer, the X-Men, Godzilla and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles et al, probably had release dates attached to them before Prince William walked Catherine Middleton down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.
Kennedy says counterprogramming is one of the keys. “They look at what everybody else does and if they see a Fast and Furious sitting on the second week of July and they have an action movie, they’re staying away from that weekend.”
Mongrel Media took a risk and counterprogrammed a movie that went on to become one of their biggest hits of the summer. “Boyhood was released in July as the summertime nicely captured the notion of childhood set in the film,” Vahidy says. “It was also a great way to counter program with the Hollywood blockbusters and offer movie goers a smart original film as an option.” The critically acclaimed film was aimed at a different audience than the other two big releases that week, Disney’s kid friendly Planes and the raunchy Cameron Diaz comedy Sex Tape. “That move paid off for us as Boyhood is one of our most successful releases ever with a theatrical box-office of over $2.3 million in Canada and growing.”
So why didn’t it work for the big releases this summer? Suggested reasons for the downturn range from a lack of family movies, which traditionally pull in big numbers, too many sequels and superhero movies and even divided attention from the World Cup.
Kennedy adds one more reason. “Everybody has busy lives,” he says. “The one thing we’ve always found is that people always come back. It’s not the price of the movie ticket or the popcorn, it’s putting aside the time to go. People want to go out and we offer the most affordable out-of-home experience there is.”
According to wikipedia the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a “parody of four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics’ ‘Daredevil’ and ‘New Mutants,’ Dave Sim’s ‘Cerebus’ and Frank Miller’s ‘Ronin.’” They quickly became something of a sensation, but with popularity came an erosion of the subversive aspects of the story. In short, they became the thing they once poked fun at. That self-unaware tradition continues with the release of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a Michael Bay produced big screen reboot.
The plot of the new film can be summed up by one line from obnoxious cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). “Four turtles, one’s fighting a robot samurai. Why not?”
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for this turtle soup, here’s more detail:
Megan Fox stars as April O’Neil, a television lifestyle reporter with pastel blue nail polish who wants to be taken seriously. When she follows a lead on a stolen chemical plot to a dark and rainy dock she discovers the biggest story of her life, the existence of seemingly indestructible vigilantes. Trouble is, no one believes her, least of all her colleagues at the station. “I think you found Superman,” mocks one reporter. Risking her career and her life, she follows the story only to discover the vigilantes are actually sewer dwelling super turtles fighting against the evil Shredder and his Foot Gang minions. As strange as the story is, she soon discovers she may have a personal connection to these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When people say they hate CGI movies “TMNT” is the kind of movie they’re referring to. A microcosm of what’s wrong with summer spectaculars, it’s a soulless exercise in generation X brand nostalgia that creates an elaborate backstory—one that throws away the original origin story—as an excuse for the TMNT to spout one liners.
But no matter how quippy Leonardo (voice of Johnny Knoxville), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) may be, it’s near impossible to get on side with this noisy, cluttered movie because it’s simply a frantically shot—director Jonathan Liebesman never met a zoom or dolly shot he didn’t love—collection of pixels with very little organic matter on display—other than Megan Fox’s teen dream face; all pouty lips and tousled hair—and when everything is fake, nothing feels real or emotionally connected.
Perhaps I’m overthinking a movie about Ninja turtles, but the film wants you to underthink and that’s the problem. Unlike “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which mixed humor, action and self-awareness, “TMNT” feels more like an exercise in brand revitalization than a movie.
There was a time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere.
Stars of movies, comic books, television and video games, they even had action figures and breakfast cereals as part of their reptilian empire. They were 20th Century pop culture icons, which ain’t too bad for four hard-shelled crime fighters named after Renaissance artists.
But, like all pop culture fads, eventually Turtle mania played itself out, and the action figures, the TMNT PJs and coloring books became passé. This weekend producer Michael Bay is hoping to give Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello a new lease on life at the movies.
The release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is timed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first TMNT comic book.
Megan Fox plays April O’Neill, reporter and friend-of-the-turtles, who help the fearless four protect New York City from its greatest threat, Shredder and his evil Foot Clan. “Together,” says Turtles’ mentor Splinter, “you are stronger than he could ever be!”
Turtle groupies have been following the development of the reboot with great interest. They spoke up when it was announced that Bay wanted to streamline the title to Ninja Turtles but an even bigger controversy struck in 2012.
“These turtles are from an alien race,” said Bay, “and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.” Seems benign enough, but fans were incensed that the Transformers producer would take liberties with the origin story. Tough and lovable are OK, but alien? Not so much. According to the canon the heroes on the half shell where transformed when they came into contact with toxic ooze.
One internet firestorm later—Robbie Rist, who voiced Michelangelo in the original movies, went so far as to accuse Bay of “sodomizing” the franchise—Bay amended the statement, reassuring fans he would stick to the official origin story. They even poke fun at the controversy in the movie.
“So,” says Vernon (Will Arnett), “they’re aliens?”
“No,” replies reporter O’Neil, “that’s stupid.”
No spoilers here. Whether the Turtles rise from the ooze or not Bay (and director Jonathan Liebesman) have a cinematic legacy to live up to. The TMNT first came to the big screen in 1990, followed quickly by TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze, 1991 and TMNT III, 1993.
Then, after a decade break the green fighting machines came back in the computer animated TMNT, but was written off as feeling “as stale as one of Mikey’s half-eaten pizzas,” by the New York Daily News.
Can Bay top all the other films? Writer Sean Patrick said, “I can see no good reason why Bay can’t make by far the best Ninja Turtles movie ever. The bar hasn’t exactly been set high.”
There was a time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere. Stars of not only the movies—1990’s self titled flick remains one of the highest grossing independent films of all time—but also comic books, television and video games, they even had action figures and breakfast cereals as part of their reptilian empire. They were 20th Century pop culture icons, which ain’t too bad for four hard-shelled crime fighters named after Renaissance artists.
But, like all pop culture fads, eventually Turtle mania played itself out, and the action figures, the TMNT PJs and coloring books became passé. This weekend Warner Brothers is hoping to give Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello a 21st century digital makeover.
It’s been fourteen years since the green fighting machines last graced the big screen and there have been some changes. The trademarked ninja swords, skateboarding tricks, unquenchable hunger for pizza and catchphrases like “Cowabunga!” are all in place, what’s gone is Canadian actor Elias Koteas who starred in all three original movies and the cheesy turtle costumes.
In the new computer animated version the heroes in the half shell must heal the rifts that threaten their brotherhood, fight 3000 year-old immortals and save New York City from becoming overrun with monsters and demons from another age, (kind of like it was before Rudy Giuliani stepped in to clean up Times Square.)
The mach 4 Turtles have some cool action scenes—a single-take skateboard thrill ride through a sewer pipe is eye-popping—but it’s too bad that writer, director Kevin Munroe didn’t put as much effort into the script as he did some of the flashy visuals. The dialogue is painful, lacking the flair and appeal of other CG movies like The Incredibles and it may be Turtles sacrilege to bring this up, but the skateboarder slang has got to go. It might have been hip in 1984, now the lingo sounds dated and corny.
TMNT should appeal to younger kids—not too young, though, some of the action scenes are rather intense—and young adults who grew up eating out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxes.