Addio Commentary: Blockbusters vs Docbusters

This season, so far, has been unpredictable in terms of audience approval.

The disconnection between audiences and Disney’s latest Star Wars spin-off was the first tip-off.  Solo: A Star Wars Story was estimated to be a box office winner but, as its release date grew closer, the forecast seemed doubtful.  The film’s hampered production hanging over it like a swarm of mosquitos didn’t give audiences much to be excited about but, personally, I thought the film would overcome those apprehensions due to the franchise’s loyal fanbase and because early reviews reported that the film was very entertaining and different in tone.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Solo was left flying, well, solo.

Accumulating more attention at the box office was a slight resurgence for documentaries. RBG, the doc chronicling U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s career, proved to be a crowd-pleasing champ in its limited release, raking in more money per screen than anyone could’ve expected.  Along with the film’s widespread critical acclaim, Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s doc had a persistent social media presence featuring users posting screenshots of “sold-out” marquees along with their own positive and inspired bite-sized reviews.  Solo and RBG are, obviously, very different movies to compare, but the latter’s financial success (along with Won’t You Be My Neighbour? and Three Identical Strangers) would suggest that audiences are more interested in true stories than popcorn entertainment.

However, the tables have turned once again, and sources are returning to predictions that this Summer will be dominated by blockbuster sequels.  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, for instance, are two tentpole favourites that are expected to hit the box office pretty hard.  The successor to 2015’s Jurassic World is closing in on a worldwide gross of $1 billion, and the Mission: Impossible franchise has proven to be a lucrative series – financially and creatively.

Could Mission: Impossible hit a similar Solo snag?  We’ll see, but at least the marketing for Tom Cruise’s vehicle is upfront with its promises for its audience.  At the heart of the moviegoing season, that honesty is what will prevail and surely keep these Summer epics on top.

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