Though the overall intake for summer 2016’s box office was up from last year, the season was still noteworthy for several perceived commercial disappointments. For the most part, the tentpoles failed to leave much of an impression, and mega hits like Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Suicide Squad were few and far between. As moviegoers are left to wonder what exactly went wrong at the multiplex, it remains to be seen what lessons (if any) the studios learn.
Few companies had rougher sledding than Paramount, which had high hopes for the likes of Star Trek Beyond, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and the Ben-Hur remake. Unfortunately for them, none of them were an overwhelming success; Beyond was the highest with $157.5 million domestically, Out of the Shadows made $82 million, and Ben-Hur flopped with $26 million. It would appear that their slump isn’t going to slow down soon, as they’re expecting major losses with the upcoming Monster Trucks.
Per THR, Viacom (which owns Paramount) has lowered its projected earnings for the fourth quarter of this fiscal year, contributed partially to an “impairment charge of $115 million” that’s thought to be connected to the box office performance of a movie yet to be released. Sources tell the outlet that the project in question is most likely Monster Trucks, a big-budget movie that’s scheduled for a January 2017 release. The film has had a rough road to the big screen, originally slated for a premiere in May 2015 before moving several times. A trailer was released back in June, but Paramount has done little marketing since then.
Monster Trucks, an effects-heavy extravaganza where CGI creatures drive practical vehicles, has an estimated production budget of $100 million. Typically, those figures do not include marketing costs, meaning the film was a pricey endeavor for the studio. It was initially thought to be a genre picture with wide appeal, but the final cut is something that’s geared more towards kids, a development that could hurt its commercial prospects. In addition, the January window isn’t very confidence boosting, as that month is typically thought to be a dumping ground for inferior films (save for award contenders expanding wide).
Drexel Hamilton analyst Tony Wible indicates that Paramount is on track to lose “about $500 million” for the year and mentions that the studio is having a hard time on the franchise front. Outside of Transformers (which has a fifth installment coming next summer), Paramount doesn’t have much in terms of reliable cash cows and has no new properties in sight. Even the well-received Star Trek Beyond saw diminishing returns, so they may have to do some retooling if they are to maintain success for the longterm. No corporation can continuously take massive hits like this.
Paramount does have some bright spots this fall and winter, with mid-budgeted works like Arrival and Fences thought to do well financially. Perhaps the studio will pursue more projects of that nature in the future, building a slate of cost effective films with a strong chance of turning a profit. There’s no shame in that, and as long as they have one tentpole to play the shared universe game, they’ll be in good shape.
Monster Trucks opens in U.S. theaters January 13, 2017.