Summer Blockbusters Revisited: Assessing My Risk Assessments
When it can cost nearly $100 to take a family of four to the movies (including snacks, of course), you don’t want to risk wasting your cash on a so-so movie.
That’s why earlier this summer I brought my work home with me to risk assess some of the most-anticipated movie sequels, prequels, and reboots scheduled to hit the silver screen. With no advance reviews to rely on, I did my due diligence by reading articles about the movies, catching interviews on TV with the stars, and watching movie trailers to get a general feel for the concept.
How effective were my assessments? I’m proud to say that I nailed it! Of the seven movies I assessed, my conclusion was to pass on four of them and pronounce that three of them were worth seeing.
Each of the Berman-approved movies went on to successful theater runs, making hundreds of millions at the box office. One of the films I passed on had middling reviews and returns. The other three basically bombed.
I also mitigated the risk by choosing a discount day at my local theater when tickets were $6, and a small popcorn and drink combo cost $5. It was also a rainy day, so a great day to take my family to the movies. If we didn’t like the movie, we’d have only been out around $40, compared to $100. The only movie I ended up seeing this summer was Toy Story 4. But I didn’t rely wholly on my initial assessment, which was positive. I also engaged in ongoing due diligence to see what reviewers had to say and waited until it was in theaters a few weeks to get word of mouth opinions and note box office performance.
For a brief summary of my assessments and what Rotten Tomatoes ultimately had to say, read on.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency, Monarch, fights a bunch of giant mythological monsters, including Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. Will humanity survive the battle of these ancient super-species?
My assessment: Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but he won’t rule my summer. Pass.
Rotten Tomatoes: 41% fresh “Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers spectacular kaiju action -- and reaffirms that cutting-edge effects are still no substitute for a good story.”
Box office: $110 million
Synopsis: Set in 1992, this latest film in the X-Men franchise involves a solar flare hitting the X-Men while on a space mission. Jean Grey “loses control of her abilities and unleashes the Phoenix.”
My assessment: This is a dark-horse candidate, and given the other choices, I’m going to have to say this phoenix isn’t going to rise to the occasion. Pass.
Rotten Tomatoes: 23% fresh “Dark Phoenix ends an era of the X-Men franchise by taking a second stab at adapting a classic comics arc -- with deeply disappointing results.”
Box office: $66 million
Men in Black: International
Synopsis: A London-based team of Men in Black (MIB) secret agents become involved in a series of alien attacks that sends them traveling around the globe.
My assessment: Could be a fun ride. Worth considering.
Rotten Tomatoes: 22% fresh “Amiable yet forgettable, MIB International grinds its stars' substantial chemistry through the gears of a franchise running low on reasons to continue.”
Box office: $79 million
Synopsis: A mother unknowingly gives her son an evil toy doll named Chucky.
My assessment: I’m not into horror. Pass.
Rotten Tomatoes: 64% fresh “Child's Play updates an '80s horror icon for the Internet of Things era, with predictably gruesome -- and generally entertaining -- results.”
Box office: $29 million
Toy Story 4
Synopsis: Picking up several years after Andy gave his toys to Bonnie, Bonnie makes a new toy named “Forky” from arts and crafts supplies. The toys help Forky as he struggles to adjust to his new life.
My assessment: To infinity and beyond! I’m in.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% fresh “Heartwarming, funny, and beautifully animated, Toy Story 4 manages the unlikely feat of extending -- and perhaps concluding -- a practically perfect animated saga.”
Box office: $415 million
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Synopsis: Taking place after Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker goes on a school field trip to Europe and ends up joining forces with other heroes to battle a threat.
My assessment: Could be fun. Definitely worth considering.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90% fresh “A breezily unpredictable blend of teen romance and superhero action, Spider-Man: Far from Home stylishly sets the stage for the next era of the MCU.”
Box office: $366 million
The Lion King
Synopsis: A lifelike, computer-animated remake of the original 1994 movie.
My assessment: Hakuna matata! Sounds fun!
Rotten Tomatoes: 53% fresh “While it can take pride in its visual achievements, The Lion King is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved -- though for some fans that may just be enough.”
Box office: $453 million
What can we learn from this assessment of sequels, prequels, and reboots? Risk assessments not only protect you from making bad decisions, but can also help you understand the operating landscape as well. For instance, in this case we saw that building on a tried-and-true property is not a guarantee of success. Projects that get lazy or lack imagination won’t draw in paying customers. If a franchise doesn’t work to capture the magic of the original or work to keep up with the times, it will be dead on arrival. On the other hand, those that put a lot of thought into continuing the story, or find a new and creative way to retell an existing story, will attract an audience.
The moral of the story: Don’t assume a marquee name is enough to attract consumers. You need to re-earn their business by staying fresh. In a world of vast choices, consumers are assessing risks and smart institutions need to do the same or face a Dark Phoenix-scale fail.
Also, Toy Story 4 was pretty good.