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The Blight of the Billion Dollar Blockbuster

The Blight of the Billion Dollar Blockbuster

By now most of us have seen Age of Ultron. And if you haven’t don’t worry, because this article isn’t going to discuss the film or any of the current scandals surrounding it – and most importantly you don’t have to worry about any spoilers, which even I had the displeasure of reading despite going to see the film on its release date.

Instead this article is going to focus on how Avengers: Age of Ultron had the second-biggest opening weekend of all-time, beat only by its prequel, The Avengers. The film grossed $187.7 million in domestic ticket sales opening weekend and has currently grossed $875 million worldwide according to IMDb.com. Additionally, Age of Ultron had the second-highest single-day earnings of all time at $84.4 million, just under the $90 million grossed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It’s currently the second-highest earning film of the year.

Clearly these numbers are impressive and bode well for all parties involved – Marvel, Disney, and even Joss Whedon, despite the current state of his relationship with the company. According to Forbes, Age of Ultron is slated to earn over $1 billion at the global box office. It isn’t the first film to do so this year and it certainly won’t be the last. Furious 7 has a current gross of $1.46 billion worldwide and highly anticipated films like Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Jurassic World are estimated to make earnings up in the billions as well.

The Force Awakens

But are these highly successful multi-billion dollar cinematic achievements hurting the potential for the next original movie franchise?

Look at it this way: yes, films like Avengers, Star Wars, and Jurassic World are going to bring in huge audiences because they are existing franchises and audiences want to see their worlds’ expanded upon. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if the trend continues, films that only gross a couple hundred million globally will not be considered successes by the bigger studios – who are adverse to taking unnecessary risks. Thus, Hollywood will continue to churn out sequels for reliable successful franchises and we as an audience will be trapped in an endless loop of non-original content before we even realize we’ve sprung the trap.

Tomorrowland is an example of one of the American-made non-franchise blockbusters to be released this year. Although it references the pre-existing Disney park, the film is an original story. If the film is unable to hit that magic billion dollar mark, it looses its opportunity to expand its universe via sequels (or even a rebranding of the real-life Tomorrowland – think of the possibilities!). It also hurts the studio’s desire to take on original content.

Tomorrowland

Sure, there will always be independents and films from outside of the U.S., like Ex Machina, but the films in between, the ones that cost millions and need the backing of a larger production company, will cease to exist because if studios can bring in billions in revenue on sure things, then what is a couple hundred million on a risked investment? It may sound ridiculous to talk about such large sums of money in such casual terms, but that’s how Hollywood thinks.

The moral of the story? Go support the films that you want to see more of. If you only want to see sequels based off of pre-existing franchises then fine, keep doing what you’re doing, I won’t judge. But if you’re a huge cinephile like me make sure that you’re supporting original content. But only if it appeals to you! If you think Unfriended looks like a cool take on a horror film, take the time to see it in theaters, don’t just wait for its inevitable release on Netflix instant.

And I’m talking to myself as much as I’m talking to you guys here. I’m a broke recent graduate who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on going to the movies, and yet I always see the latest addition to the Marvel universe or other equally talked about franchise because I want to see the films, but mostly because I want to hang out with friends and not feel left out in conversation – so I don’t wait around for the DVD release. In recent years I’ve realized that going to the movies by yourself really isn’t the worst thing in the world and will do so if there’s a film I want to see and I can’t find anyone else interested.

Ultimately, it’s a case of supply and demand. We as an audience need to show the film industry that we care about the “smaller” blockbusters. We need to see stand-alones as often as we see sequels. If not, we won’t have the choice.

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