And the summer box office car crash claimed its second victim. If Deadpool 2 was a fender-bender, Solo straight up got ran off the road. Going into the weekend, the projection was a $130-150 million four-day Memorial Day weekend, and coming out of the long weekend, the estimate is $84 million for the regular three-day weekend, and $103 million with the extra day tacked on. It’s hard to view $100 million as bad because it’s so much money, but given the cost and expectations and the Star Wars name, this is not a good result. It’s way below expectations, and for the first time in the new Disney era of LucasFilm, a Star Wars movie isn’t going to mint money. In fact, given the assumed cost of Solo—with an extended shoot to accommodate the director change and an average tentpole worldwide marketing spend of $150 million, let’s (GENEROUSLY) estimate Solo around $400 million—it’s in actual danger of losing money.
The problem for Solo is two-fold. One, it’s not doing well overseas. China doesn’t particularly care about Star Wars, and there Solo opened to a dismal $10 million. The rest of the world was similarly disinterested, bringing in a paltry $65 million from pretty much every international market except Japan. Studio marketing departments will often tout international totals to make for better headlines when the domestic delivery is weak, but Solo can’t even claim an impressive international haul. The other problem for Solo is its runway, or lack thereof. This weekend is clear as the Star Wars name was enough to scare off competition—which might not work in future, given this outcome—but Ocean’s 8 opens on the eighth (oh I just saw what they did there). And then Incredible 2 comes out on the fifteenth. And then Jurassic World 2 the next week. So there is literally no room for Solo to grow. Realistically, it might not even top $250 million domestically.
So, why is this happening? Is it Star Wars fatigue? After all, The Last Jedi opened less than six months ago. But then, Marvel releases 3 movies a year now, and they’ve basically started their own wing of the US Treasury. So I don’t know that fatigue is THE problem. For sure the release date is A problem. Memorial Day isn’t the movie-going weekend it once was, with the summer movie season opening weeks earlier now. We’ve already had two big movies open in the last few weeks, and affordability is the REAL problem. Every time we talk about box office what we’re really talking about is the affordability of the movies. And for a lot of people, it just isn’t affordable to go to more than one—maybe two—movies a month. Releasing so many huge movies right in a row isn’t sustainable because not enough people can afford it.
We can talk fatigue, we can debate if a movie is good or not good, but at the end of the day, the single biggest problem facing the American movie market is affordability. I’ve seen a lot of “It’s a problem when $100 million isn’t enough” this weekend, but it’s also a problem if people can’t afford to go to the movies enough to sustain theaters. MoviePass is constantly on the brink of collapse, but they have an idea that works—a “Netflix style” monthly subscription service to go to the movies. Maybe MoviePass as a company fails, but this idea seems worth preserving. I do not understand why theater owners are so opposed to using new technology to get people into theaters because it’s the only forward-thinking idea right now. Blame it on fatigue if you want, but the way I see it, people aren’t tired of going to the movies, they just can’t afford it. Which we can rehash in June when the summer box office car crash turns into a pile up.
Here's Donald Glover out in New York the other day.