class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-23080″ style=”margin: 10px” src=”×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />Last weekend’s big movies made money, with The Karate Kid doing particularly well against its production budget. However, compared to some of the numbers seen over the Spring, the Summer box office appears to be declining, with the A-Team particularly falling far short of expectations. Usually, Summer is the big seller, and there has been no shortage of big budget blockbusters. Last year saw big budget movies making the lions share of the cash, with the biggest wins at the box office scored by the movies that spent the most, both in terms of production costs and marketing budget.

So why does the trend appear to be slowing? For the last twelve months, we’ve seen movies adapted from popular licenses outgrossing star vehicles and innovative filmmaking. Star Trek, GI: Joe, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers 2, the list is endless. Some ‘original’ movies made a lot of money. But 2012 and Avatar both had huge budgets and weak storylines. Alice in Wonderland, Iron Man 2 and Clash of the Titans have made the big money in the first third of this year, but all suffered poor review scores, and left audiences disappointed. The only film that has made a lot of money, whilst also attaining critical success has been How To Train Your Dragon.

So far this summer, we have seen Prince of Persia, The A-Team, Sex and the City and even Shrek Forever After fall below projections. Persia was a big budget family Disney film, and the other three were based on popular franchises. But audiences have stayed away. Are movie-goers finally growing tired of being disappointed? Are they now paying more attention to movie review scores, in light of recent ticket price hikes? Or are they just sick of going to see poorly conceived, rehashed stories?

I don’t particularly think that people are bored of big popcorn movies, i just think there have been too many. There have been some big releases this past spring, and when you think how much the cost of a typical family trip to the movies has increased recently, you can see why the pace has slowed. With the cost of 3D movies rising considerably, for two adults and their 2.4 children to go see a 3D movie, they could almost have gone to see two regular movies for the same cost last year. We’d all love original, interesting stories with great movies attached, but there will always be a big percentage of the mainstream audience that will only journey out to the cinema to see something immediately recognisable, mistakenly thinking an adaptation of an existing property will be a guarantee of quality.

As far as the current economy goes, the boom that box office takings received last year were linked by many to the global recession. A couple of trips to the cinema were seen as a cheap entertainment, compared with some other options. It may just be that now the economy has settled, and people have grown bored of living on a budget, that they have decided to go on that holiday this year, or spend a bit of money on that new car, or home extension. The factors that caused last year’s record attendances may now be working against the industry.

It may instead just be that they are saving their money for Toy Story 3. The Toy Story series is hugely popular, and with the critical acclaim that Pixar’s interim movies Wall-E and Up have received, their latest movie is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. The outlook is good, with currently a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100% fresh. Make no mistake, Buzz and Woody are well placed to make huge amounts of money, and the third Toy Story movie could easily become the highest grossing movie of the year so far.

If, however, the reason that movies like Prince of Persia and Sex and the City have failed is because audiences are starting to crave something more, a story with far more substance, Christopher Nolan’s Inception may be the big beneficiary. No-one knows how the director’s follow-up to The Dark Knight will fare financially. Common sense dictates that it will enjoy only modest box office success. A cerebral storyline, actors rather than stars, and the lack of an already established brand identity all suggest that big audiences will not be drawn in. But if they really are looking for something different, a story and plot that are a bit more compelling, maybe Inception will surprise when numbers come in. The Dark Knight made record amounts at the time, and whilst there were many factors, including the popularity of the character, and the quality of the preceding Batman Begins, it may be that the words ‘from the director of The Dark Knight’ on the poster will be enough to carry that momentum through.

With business slow so far, aside from Toy Story 3 it is difficult to see where the big money is going to roll in at cinemas for the rest of the year. The big budget blockbusters have already arrived, and movies like Predators and The Expendables look to struggle based on the performance of similar movies like The A-Team and The Losers. This year has seen the family market contributing the most money, with Alice in Wonderland and How to Train Your Dragon as the biggest success stories so far. There aren’t too many big family films on the horizon, and it is entirely possible that this year’s final numbers will be down on last year’s record takings.

It’ll be interesting to see in the coming months which movies will win each weekend. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse looks to be the only certainty for big money, and following the critical mauling of the last installment, maybe even that isn’t guaranteed. There are a few months of Summer left, the time when the big money is made, then we go into the traditional quieter Autumn period, when the Oscar contenders tend to filter out. If it is really the case that audiences are on the verge of becoming more discerning, maybe that’s when the money will start to come in again.

Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at