Ed Driscoll

Twilight Of The Blockbuster?

Between the rise of the Long Tail of the Internet, DIY-video, and Tinseltown’s BDS-driven shorting of Red State values, Hollywood’s finding, much to its chagrin, that blockbuster domestic grosses are in short supply these days:

From Superman and the X-Men to Caribbean pirate Jack Sparrow and M:I’s Ethan Hunt, it’s the year of the return for everything in Hollywood – except the blockbuster movie.

And with increased audience fragmentation, soaring production budgets and more entertainment choices than ever, it looks as though the blockbuster movie may go the way of the drive-in.

Only eight films this year have grossed more than $100 million, the traditional barometer for a breakout hit, and industry insiders believe the rest of this year’s slate doesn’t have the muscle to match the 19 films that topped that figure in 2005, even though that was the lowest total to reach $100 million since 1998.

“Nothing is standing out like a ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Harry Potter’ as a surefire blockbuster for the fall or holiday season,” said Exhibitor Relations president Paul Dergarabedian.

The picture is even bleaker when considering that the new standard for a blockbuster is $200 million. “We have to redefine the notion of what a blockbuster is,” said Bruce Snyder, Twentieth Century Fox’s president of domestic distribution. “You can make $100 million on a film nowadays and still lose a fortune.” (Twentieth Century Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Post.)

The $100 million blockbuster benchmark came about during the 1980s. For a film to gross $100 million in 1980, it had to sell 37 million tickets at the average price of $2.69. At today’s average price of $6.41, selling 37 million tickets amounts to $238 million.

Given that, BoxOfficeMojo. com’s Brandon Gray said $200 million is a more accurate threshold for blockbuster status. And by that measure, 2006 is shaping up to be the worst year for blockbusters in a half-decade.

Color me unsurprised.