Why Hollywood could be facing a disastrous summer

Meanwhile, most of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster franchises have run their courses. There hasn’t been a new Star Wars film since a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – well, 2019, anyway. The last version of DC’s superheroes have hung up their capes, as we await the start of another universe reboot from James Gunn. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is officially ongoing, but the flopping of The Marvels in November felt like the end of an era. JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series has been “parked”, according to the director of those films, David Yates. There is no sign of a follow-up to Spider-Man: No Way Home, which came out in December 2021. And we’re still waiting to hear who the new James Bond will be, even though No Time To Die came out in September 2021. What we’re left with for the moment is Godzilla, King Kong and The Planet of the Apes, but can anyone name the main human characters in those franchises?   

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At this point, Hollywood’s slump looks less like a damp summer and more like a biblical deluge. The studios have been fixated on a handful of high-profile intellectual properties for the past 20 years. When those properties run out of steam, what can they do?

The scale of the crisis was disguised by the worldwide success of Barbie and Oppenheimer last summer. But even at the time, it was obvious that the Barbenheimer phenomenon was a blip, rather than a long-term solution to the industry’s problems. Here, after all, were two risk-taking projects from distinctive auteurs, given an extraordinary publicity boost from a meme that prompted customers to see both of them, one after the other, while wearing costumes and buying souvenir merchandise. The phenomenon was fun while it lasted, but if it took a set of circumstances as unrepeatable as that to fill cinemas, it couldn’t be taken as a positive sign.

That’s not to say that blockbusters won’t keep coming out – every now and then. Executives at Marvel and DC will be hoping that Captain America: Brave New World and Superman: Legacy can beat superhero fatigue when they are released next year. But there is no indication that anyone in Hollywood knows how to put hit films into cinemas on a regular basis any more. The climate has changed. As the characters in Twisters might say, Hollywood has sown the wind, and is now reaping the whirlwind. If the summer blockbuster season is ever to recover, it’s going to require some blue-sky thinking.

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