For many years, summer blockbusters have been synonymous with epic, over-the-top, CGI spectacle – driving films like The Avengers on to over $1.5 billion at the global box office. However, as CGI effects have become increasingly less expensive to produce, many studios have fallen into the habit of relying heavily on eye-popping visuals rather than engaging stories and characters to get people in the seats.

There’s no doubt that memorable action set-pieces and larger-than-life creatures can be a major draw for moviegoers (sometimes it’s just fun to be wowed), but with many competing CGI-heavy films in theaters, epic visual effects aren’t always enough anymore. Much of the marketing for R.I.P.D. attempted to sell the film on its whacky odd couple setup (with a paranormal twist) along with a host of digital monsters. In spite of a $130 million budget, audiences mostly ignored the film, dismissing the premise and the CGI action as a less-inspired version of Men in Black – one that wasn’t worth dishing out money at the box office. Taking the previous page into account, R.I.P.D.‘s heavy reliance on special effects were never going to be enough to compete with RED 2 and The Conjuring, not to mention holdovers like Pacific Rim and Despicable Me 2, in a summer movie spot.

Even after solid reviews, the muddled ticket sales and subsequent second week falloff for Pacific Rim shows that casual audiences are more discerning about which CGI blockbusters they’ll support in theaters – meaning that even giant robots and monsters are not enough to guarantee solid studio profits.

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