Why Hollywood Makes Bad Movies

September 3, 2016, 3:00 PM UTC
BEN-HUR: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; GHOSTBUSTERS: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; LEGEND OF TARZAN: Warner Bros./Everett Collection; SUICIDE SQUAD: Courtesy of Warner Brothers

An epic remake? More like an epic fail. In mid-August, Ben-Hur, yet another adaptation of the novel about a chariot racer in biblical times, became Hollywood’s latest big-budget bomb. The film, which cost $100 million, eked out a paltry $11.2 million during its opening weekend—a horrible harbinger for overall sales.

Paramount’s colossal flop was no outlier. This summer Hollywood has churned out a stream of easy-to-ignore remakes and sequels like The Legend of Tarzan, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Ghostbusters. Yet despite these disappointments, overall ticket sales have been about on par with last summer’s $4.48 billion.

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The explanation? Enough movies have done well enough to make this blockbuster season a relative ­success—even without many blockbusters. “Emotionally this was a tough summer on the industry and a bit of a letdown for moviegoers,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at ComScore. “But the cumulative box-office numbers are actually strong.”

Hollywood has a bigger problem than just this summer, though. Tinseltown’s growing reliance on franchises is no foolproof strategy, and higher ticket prices mask the larger problem of shrinking audiences. As long as studios are able to show profit growth, however, it’s unlikely they will change their ways.


nullCourtesy of Paramount Pictures

Budget: $100 million
Opening Weekend: $11.2 million


Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Budget: $144 million
Opening Weekend: $46 million

The Legend of Tarzan

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, from left: Samuel L. Jackson,Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan, 2016 ph:JonathanJonathan Olley—Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Budget: $180 million
Opening Weekend: $38.5 million

Suicide Squad

SUICIDE SQUAD Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Budget: $175 million
Opening Weekend: $133.7 million

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A version of this article appears in the September 15, 2016 issue of Fortune.