The stampeding arrival of Comic-Con awakens the "think piece" in a lot of film writers. Some preach the end of times, calling the annual four-day media extravaganza a death knell for modern culture. Others see it as the apex of creative publicity and geek fandom, a safe haven for fringe characters (both real and imagined) to flex their muscles. Many more opinions fall somewhere in between.
I'm more interested in the capitalistic zeitgeist spawned by Comic-Con than the event itself. Ever since Steven Spielberg rang the initial summer-season dinner bell with Jaws in 1975, box office has been an essential indicator for success in a movie's lifespan. However inane, opening-weekend calculations dictate all. But the tide might be turning.
By all accounts, the summer-box-office season of 2014 has been a glaring disappointment. While things started off swimmingly in April with the Captain America sequel raking in the cash, it's been a downward spiral ever since. In June, the website Box Office Mojo chalked up the low totals to the lack of a blockbuster in the vein of Iron Man 3 or The Dark Knight .
What was once a lot of money now pales in comparison. Despite making upwards of $200 million, films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 , Godzilla and How to Train Your Dragon 2 have all underperformed, according to analysts' expectations. If that doesn't convince you of how bloated studio production has become, nothing will. The rest of 2014, sans the next entry in the Hunger Games series and the final (thankfully) Hobbit film, looks pretty grim, too.
But those wishing for a paradigm shift and massive studio collapse, à la the late 1960s—this led to a renaissance in American filmmaking in the early 1970s—may need to slow their roll. The summer of 2015 looks like a safe bet to reinstall all the confidence Hollywood needs to keep churning out sequels, reboots and remakes at an alarming clip.
In fact, a year from now, fanboys might be in the midst of a mega-blockbuster onslaught, with each weekend unveiling a different monster on their targeted demographics. Fast & Furious 7 (April 3) gets the ball rolling, bringing a built-in fan base and a lot of publicity due to the untimely death of star Paul Walker. Adding director James Wan to the mix only amplifies the anticipation.
But muscle-car melodrama is only an appetizer for what's sure to be the main course of the summer season, The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (May 1). The last film made $623 million domestically, and the sequel is primed to do even more business.
The most exciting release of summer 2015 is George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15), starring Tom Hardy as the eponymous road warrior. It'll be interesting to see if modern audiences take to this dark dystopian series that hasn't been around for three decades. This year's Comic-Con attendees can get an early look in Hall H.
Brad Bird's Tomorrowland (May 22), starring George Clooney, will undoubtedly transcend its theme-park-ride title. This is the same filmmaker behind The Iron Giant , The Incredibles and Ratatouille .
Jurassic World (June 12), a reboot of The Fantastic Four (June 19) and Pixar's Inside Out (June 19) storm the gates in succession, giving audiences a wicked combination of counter-programming.
Next July opens with Terminator: Genesis (July 1), back with Arnie in the lead, and continues with Marvel's long-awaited Ant Man (July 17). The season goes out with a whimper with Assassin's Creed (Aug. 1).
What's the moral of the story? Despite having a lackluster—by comparison—go of things in 2014, the studios are masters at planning ahead. No matter how much I hate to admit it, we're going to be stuck with this comic-book trend for a while.
Oh yeah, and I didn't even mention a little-known movie that's set for release in December 2015. It's called Star Wars.