Opinion: Are we at risk of blockbuster burnout?

Is the summer drowning in CGI?

The sun is shining and the mercury’s rising so obviously the majority of us film fans are ignoring the weather and filing into our nearest air-conditioned auditorium.

That’s nothing new of course. Ever since Jaws took a multi-million bite out of the box office back in 1975, the summer has traditionally been cinema’s silly season; a regular shop window into which every tentpole movie, franchise filler and big budget blockbuster is crammed.

But is it just me, or is this summer starting to drag on a little?

After all it’s been almost three months since the release of Iron Man 3, the Marvel threequel that for many people was the starter’s pistol for this summer’s blockbuster season. Since then we’ve seen the likes of The Great Gatsby, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, World War Z, Fast and Furious 6 and The Hangover III make their way into the multiplex.

And yet it’s still not over.

By the end of August you can also add the likes of The Lone Ranger, Elysium, Kick Ass 2 and The Wolverine to this summer’s bloated box office. It all adds up to more than four months of films, a summer season that now lasts for almost a third of a year. We should be delighted of course. But to be honest I’m just starting to feel a little burnt out.

Part of the problem is the cost. The average ticket price in the UK is £6.47 but once you throw in a 3D premium, some salty snacks and a sugary drink, your trip to the multiplex can cost anything up to £15 - and sometimes even more. That’s around £240 if you watch a film a week over the course of the summer season, a hit to the pocket few of us can afford in these chastened times.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the films lived up to their hype. But for me anyway this summer’s spectacles have all started to roll into one. They’re all mega budget franchises, origin stories and adaptations of geek-friendly properties where CGI heavy action sequences take precedence over characters.

That’s all well and good when you’re safely ensconced in the cinema, but by the time my buttocks have un-numbed after the two-hour plus running time I’ve already started to forget what actually happened. In fact sitting here writing this I can’t honestly remember where Man of Steel’s destruction of Metropolis ended and Pacific Rim’s onslaught in Hong Kong began.

There’s simply too many movies and not enough to set them apart. Perhaps that’s why the profits have started to stall. Sure, the summer started with record-breaking business for the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and World War Z. But with The Lone Ranger tanking (in the US, at least), Pacific Rim failing to deliver big bucks (other than China) and R.I.P.D also flopping; the box office could very well go from boom to bust in a matter of a few short weeks. A wane in quality is of course partly responsible, but audiences are clearly losing their appetite for summer cinema.

I realise this could make me sound like a spoiled brat – having too many films to watch is the type of problem I’ll no doubt wish for come a rainy October evening when I’m forced into a Bizarro world Sophie’s Choice between James Corden’s Britain’s Got Talent biopic and the fifth instalment of a Paranormal Activity franchise that started to groan under the weight of its own monotony some time ago.

But surely there’s an argument to space these films out throughout the year rather than bombarding us with them all summer long?  

Daniel is a freelance film writer; you can help him piece together which CGI action sequence goes with what film over on Twitter @danielbettridge. 

What do you think? Is the summer season too long? Should these movies be spread out throughout the year? Or do you think that having so many movies vying for our attention is a good thing? Let us know in the comments below.


    • SiMan

      Aug 5th 2013, 13:13

      Are we going to start seeing big tentpole movies released a little earlier each year now then as studios look to trump each other? I personally don't think it really matters though. Even if the above movies were all spaced out over a full year, i'd have likely still seem them. I think the bigger problem is what you've stated; they are now almost all relying on a massive CGI last act and they are all starting to become too similar. Many reviews of Man of Steel mentioned that the last 20 minutes was almost like rewatching transformers 3. I don't think this will be remembered as a vintage year for blockbusters. Been throoughly underwhlemed by everything i've seen at the cinema so far this year. Oh, and the price of snacks. I totally understand that cinemas have to make back some money as studios take a high percentage of ticket sales, but i still do smuggle my own snacks in. A few packs of M&Ms stuffed down my trousers and we're good to go!

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    • mattallen

      Aug 5th 2013, 13:17

      I completely agree that we are beginning to be overloaded with CGI heavy films, but i guess most of the the summer blockbusters over the past few years have been comic book related and CGI is (I guess) completely necessary to bring those worlds and characters to life on the big screen ( I dread to think what The Avengers would have looked like with no CGI at all). I think it is silly how the "studios" seem to think that anyone the way economies and cost of living are can afford to watch that many films in such a short period. I personally would prefer to space my blockbuster viewing out over the year, then i know i would be able to catch every single one on the BIG screen as the filmmakers would want them to be viewed (I say this as a filmmaker myself and thats what i would want). Something has got to change or it could mean a bleak future for multiplexes everywhere...

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    • vinnym1980

      Aug 5th 2013, 14:07

      Well why does everyone have to see them all, personally i wanted to see superman, iron man and im going to see the worlds end this week and a few other movies at the cinema. but i can wait for films like pacific rim or wolverine until Blu Ray. Why would anyone want to watch everyone at the cinema. And some like Lone Ranger i won't watch at all.

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    • FBCFudge

      Aug 5th 2013, 14:36

      The price is indeed an enormous issue. £6.47 a ticket, cream on. My local Vue demands £9.40 for an evening adult ticket (even on weekdays). Plus, adding on drinks and snacks would rocket the price to far beyond £15. As a result many of this summer's blockbusters I've either missed (Gatsby, World War Z) or am still anxious to see (World's End, Monsters University, Pacific Rim, Now You See Me).

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    • FBCFudge

      Aug 5th 2013, 14:37

      *dream on

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    • CaptainCrazy

      Aug 5th 2013, 15:48

      I will never grow tired of blockbusters as long there aren't areas where they half-a**e it, like the script, direction or change the third act just to get a few more punches in there.

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    • Hadouken76

      Aug 5th 2013, 18:00

      Its a pity the smaller films like Mud and Before Midnight are getting overshadowed by bloated, overlong, monoliths.

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    • joeykolber

      Aug 5th 2013, 18:22

      I don't think that blockbusters have burned out, I just think it's the quality of film being made. This summer has been so full of mediocre movies, it's painful. But there have been a handful of gems, and more to come. Pacific Rim is probably my favorite, but Man of Steel, The Wolverine, World War Z, and Iron Man 3 are highlights. They were all fun, well done films. There certainly has been a noticeable lack of great films, unlike even last year, but there have been a few highlights. I think the blockbuster will continue to thrive, but I think the quality of filmmaking has to catch up. Technology is playing a key role. Now that there is very little limit to a filmmakers imagination, they have to focus on things beyond spectacle. Some seem to be having an issue with that, as is the case with a film like RIPD. Hopefully next year boasts a better summer of films than this year.

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    • mjlclocky

      Aug 5th 2013, 22:27

      Cinema is too expensive, unless u go on the discount days. Also th day of event movie as gone. Most cinema releases are practically on DVD rental etc within 3 -4months, so what's th point going. Cinema have the empty cinema advert, relating to Piracy, but I think Cinema is slowly killing itself by pricing. And Movie studios need to realise 3d should not be way forward. And 3D should not be more expensive than 2D version.

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    • marvelboy

      Aug 6th 2013, 9:28

      An interesting topic to bring up TF. I agree the prices of films are extreme when you think the DVD release price is arounf £9.99 and you can watch that as many times as like, even at the age of 22 I remember when ticket prices were like £4.50 or something and everyone could afford to go regardless of the outcome of the film, now I see cinema as high risk, I am still outraged I payed £9 for IM3 which was a load of c**p. But in regard to the amount of films, as everyone is saying you don't have to see them all and the evidence to this is the fact there is a range of different films on from Zombies, romance, comedy and Superheroes very rare would you find someone who would just watch anything at the cinemas as me for example only watch Superheroes at the cinemas. Next year should be interesting as there is four marvel films alone so will there be a similar article in 12months time about to many superhero films, I answer that now with no, there is just the right amount, I mean how many Rom-coms is there a year and such like and no one complains, if people don't like them, don't watch them simples

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    • AlfredsDream098

      Aug 6th 2013, 10:41

      I have a cinema nearby where i can pay £2.50 for a 2D ticket weekdays and £3:50 for a 3D ticket. On weekends they charge £3:50 for all tickets so i can see loads of movies. So i can see where they are coming from with major cinema chains but I am one of the lucky ones who has a the choice of several cheap trips to the cinema.

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    • Indianabones

      Aug 6th 2013, 10:53

      Would love to know where these £6-£7 Cinemas are! I refuse to go to my local Cineword as it's a dump, people always talking through a movie! these so called blockbusters being put on a small screen and still being charged £11-£13! never by snacks and the smell of hot foods now makes me sick! If i go, I travel to the Odeon which is a fair distance and still get ripped off! but less talking there.

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    • spid2411

      Aug 6th 2013, 15:28

      The problem is simply that most of these films are s**te. Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Star Trek 2, Oblivion and World War Z all sucked. Pacific Rim was different as though it was a blockbuster, it was clearly made by someone with artistic integrity with a passion for what he was making. If more of these films were made by actual artists and not money grabbing no talent tubes then you wouldn't even be commenting on it. The problem is the lack of quality - when big budget films are made by people with talent (Peter Jackson - Lord of the Rings, Christopher Nolan - Batman etc) they work and are worthwhile. When they are made by a*****es just in it for the money, they dont work. Simple as that. And yet, TF keeps rating this dross at 4 stars. Now either that means that the people working there should not be reviewing films as they haven't a clue or it means that studios pay them to say nice things. Problem there is that eventually you get sick of going to see a film because TF gave it 4 stars, only to walk out thinking what a waste of time and money and maybe decide that TF isn't worth buying anymore...

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    • FBKTudor

      Aug 6th 2013, 22:12

      I agree that the ticket price in cinemas is way too high. The average cost where I live is £9 a ticket. I, however, have had the Cineworld Unlimited Pass since 2001 (when Cineworld was UGC), for which I pay £15.99 a month and go as often as I like. It's meant that in July I was able to see Pacific Rim, Monsters University, The World's End, The Wolverine, The Heat and Now You See Me all for £15.99 in total (an average of £2.67 a ticket). Most months I can average around 10 trips. If I didn't have that Unlimited Pass, I'd never be able to go as often as I do now. When I was younger, I remember the early 90s only having 2 or 3 big event movies for the Summer Season. In 1992 I can remember it being Lethal Weapon 3 and Alien 3. In 1993 it was Jurassic Park and Last Action Hero. In 1994, it was True Lies and Speed. 1995 was Batman Forever, Bad Boys, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Judge Dredd, Waterworld, and from then on the Summer season appeared crammed with choice. Surely this is a good thing. Now if only studios would learn that CGI used in excess just hurts the eyes and ruins the spectacle. An actor on green screen has no jeopardy, but a stunt performer actually jumping a motorrbike onto a moving train is breathtaking....

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    • Indianabones

      Aug 7th 2013, 5:55

      Trouble is, with Unlimited passes, what you get are people that are a little bored or have time to waste and they go to watch (and I use that term very very loosely!) and they have a good chat throughout the film!

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