What Movie-Ticket Sales Reveal About Good Storytelling
I thought I was the only one who felt that movies had dropped in quality lately. Recent reads outlining declining movie ticket sales (and prices), however, suggest I’m not alone. What explains the slump at the box office? Afterall, more is possible with CGI than ever before, so any story imaginable can be told if a project has the right budget. (Right? Bueller?) A few factors may help explain 2019’s less-than stellar run in movie sales:
1. Black Panther is a tough act to follow.
Perhaps the disappointing figures of 2019 are just disappointing in comparison to figures from 2018, which was a strong sales year in part because of Black Panther, the highest grossing film of 2018 and one of the highest-grossing films ever. This movie sets a high bar. Although the Black Panther story isn’t “new,” it was a new storyline for the Marvel film franchise, and it tells stories from perspectives that films don’t always share.
2. Movies aren't worth what they cost.
The sun may be setting on the MoviePass empire, which made the movies a more financially manageable experience. At one point, the monthly subscription cost less than the price of a single movie ticket. Of course, this may have been a too-good-to-be-true scenario as MoviePass has since struggled to support itself without raising the cost of the subscription. Moviegoers might be opting for other, less-expensive forms of leisure. What’s more, it’s widely known that millennials prefer spending money on experiences more than things, and I think the real experience at the movies is in the films themselves, not the fancy chair, the special effects, or the popcorn. Not even movie-theater popcorn butter can justify a pricey ticket to a bad film.
3. People are sick of the same old things.
Simply put, moviegoers are stuffed from the surfeit of superhero flicks, reboots, and sequels. It doesn’t necessarily matter who is playing in a starring role or how much CGI has jazzed up the visuals. People are tired of seeing the same things over and over. As Variety writer Rebecca Rubin wrote about some of the Marvel sequels, “They were derivative, shoddily constructed, and poorly reviewed.” I think the same could be said about any number of recent, familiar productions.
Moviegoers are stuffed on the surfeit of superhero flicks, reboots, and sequels.
The lack of good storytelling is the common thread here. Don’t get me wrong. The decline of ticket sales can’t be pinned onto one thing. And, an awesome script won’t necessarily lead to an incredible movie, and an amazing movie built on strong storytelling won’t necessarily wow audiences. Still, moviegoers are shrewd, and they know when films can’t match features like Black Panther. They don’t want to pay to see movies that fail to engage them, and they crave stories that are original, that are well-developed, and that share a rich variety of perspectives (which brings me back to Black Panther).
The bottom line is that all the CGI, amusing one-liners, and famous actors in the world can’t hide a tired or poorly crafted story.