Why the box office went bust last weekend

A scene from the film "Rock of Ages." Even though it had the big-name attachment of Tom Cruise (not seen here), the movie was a major flop this summer.

Kai Ryssdal: Life imitated art this past weekend. The horror film "The Possession" led at the box office. Which was fitting, because Hollywood's had a truly horrific summer. Domestic ticket sales were down 4 percent from last year. This past weekend was Hollywood's worst since right after September 11th.

We asked Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer to find out what's going on.


Nancy Marshall-Genzer: The number one reason Hollywood flopped this summer? The movies were awful.

Keith Simanton: They were all just “meh” films, I mean, very honestly.

That’s Keith Simanton. He’s the managing editor of the online movie site IMDb. He says some of the bombs had big-name stars.  Ben Stiller in “The Watch,” Adam Sandler in “That’s My Boy.”    

Simanton: You also had things like “Rock of Ages,” the Tom Cruise musical vehicle.

Wait, what did he just say?

Simanton: The Tom Cruise musical vehicle.

Yes, I did hear him right. Tom Cruise. Musical. Brace yourself.

Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages": I’m wanted, dead or alive.

OK, that pretty much sums up how bad the summer movies were. But the economy played a supporting role. Claude Brodesser-Akner is west coast editor for Vulture.com. He says people would rather download something than waste a night out on a flop.

Claude Brodesser-Akner: You don’t have to worry about sticky floors or hiring babysitters, and you certainly don’t have to pay the kinds of prices that are being demanded for product that was decidedly inferior this summer.

But Hollywood says it’ll put out a better product over the upcoming holiday season. Paul Dergarabedian is a box office analyst at Hollywood.com.

Paul Dergarabedian: We’ve got “Resident Evil: Retribution” on IMAX on the way.

The last installment of the "Twilight" series is also on the way. And there’s a new James Bond film. If they’re not any good, movie goers might be doling out some retribution of their own at the box office.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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