Well, first of all I've always said that Hollywood was going to be the last bastion of the blockbuster (most of the hits-in-decline examples I've been focusing on are in music and TV), so I'm not surprised that the hit-making machine still manages to fire off a few sparks. But before we concede Hollywood as the exception that proves the rule, let's look at the big picture. So far this year, box office receipts are up 6% from last year, but still down 4% from 2004. And when you correct for inflation and population growth, the picture doesn't look quite as good as the celebratory headlines might suggest: in 2002 dollars this year's up just 3% after a scary 11% decline last year:
And don't forget that the other big blockbuster of the summer, Superman Returns, has returned to earth with a splat in its second weekend, falling 58%. Meanwhile music albums continue to plummet, falling another 4.2% so far this year. Hits aren't dead (and never will be) but they're not the panacea they once were, either.
UPDATE: A reader (requesting anonymity) writes:
I happened to be riding to work with an exec from one of the major studios this morning, and he mentioned that the studios are increasingly making deals with theaters to inflate opening numbers. In particular, they will give the theaters very high revenue share for the first X days of the movie (he mentioned 100% for the first 3 days), incentivizing the theater to maximize the number of screens the movie's shown on, inflating opening numbers.
The particular example of Superman and Pirates were actually the ones he brought up - that Superman's decline was partially due to the theathers' incentive period running out.
I have no idea how true or prevalent this is, but something you might want to look into. This would be done for movies which the studio considers potential "hits", increasing discrepancy between them and normal movies.
Can any other readers comment on this?