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Can The Recent Run Of Non-Woke Blockbusters Pull Hollywood Out Of Its Slump?

still from Ghostbusters movie
Image CreditGhosbusters/YouTube

March was a good month at the box office, where movies like ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Dune: Part Two’ upstaged more recent financial failures.

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March was an excellent month at the box office, with major film releases like “Dune: Part Two,” “Kung Fu Panda 4,” “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” and “Godzilla X Kong” all walking away with massive paydays.

As reported by Box Office Mojo, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” has already surpassed $108 million in the global box office in two weeks, while “Kung Fu Panda 4” has grossed $347 million globally in three weeks. “Dune: Part Two” managed to gross $626 million globally in one month.

Angel Studios’ limited faith-based releases of “Cabrini” ($18.6 million) and “The Chosen” ($7.7 million) also walked away with modest box office success.

Meanwhile, the anti-Christian marketing campaign for Sydney Sweeney’s “Immaculate” appears to have backfired, with the horror film grossing just $3.3 million over the Easter holiday weekend, marking a significant drop for its second weekend. Liam Neeson’s “In the Land of Saints and Sinners” similarly only grossed $1.06 million, after he appeared on MSNBC to celebrate Trump’s indictments.

While these incidents may not have directly contributed to box office malaise, less partisan blockbusters comparatively swept the month of March. The critically reviled but fun “Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire” opened to one of the highest-grossing worldwide opening weekends of the year, grossing $80 million domestically and $194 million globally in three days.

Whether it be the excesses of progressive ideological capture colloquially known as “wokeness,” superhero fatigue, or the audience’s genuine desire to see new and creative spectacles on the big screen, audiences are beginning to make their voices heard at the box office. The days of sluggish Covid box office numbers are over, and audiences are flooding to massive spectacle films like “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Oppenheimer,” and “Dune: Part Two.”

This stands in sharp contrast to the recent box office failings of the Disney Corporation, which released numerous box office bombs last year while its premiere streaming service has continued to hemorrhage money.

Seven of Disney’s eight major 2023 releases, including “Wish,” “Elemental,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Haunted Mansion,” “Indiana Jones 5,” “The Marvels,” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” underperformed at the box office. Its only major success last year was the third “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, which grossed $845.6 million globally.

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” officially became one of the largest bombs in cinematic history when it grossed $383.9 million on a monstrous $308 million production budget and $100 million advertising budget, turning one of Harrison Ford’s final performances into a career low point. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC in November that the studio had lost sign of its mission and focused too much on the messaging in major releases, affirming that his creatives need to prioritize storytelling over messaging.

“We have entertained with values and with having a positive impact on the world in many different ways. ‘Black Panther’ is a great example of that. I like being able to entertain if you can infuse it with positive messages and have a good impact on the world. Fantastic. But that should not be the objective. When I came back, what I have really tried to do is to return to our roots,” Iger told CNBC.

With Disney backing away from its lawsuit against Florida on March 27, after Disney World President Jeff Vahl affirmed it has “put an end to all litigation pending in state court,” it is possible that the Disney Corporation may begin to grapple with its unwieldy state of affairs and correct its failures.

This does not mean that left-leaning films still haven’t similarly corned the market, as “Barbie” ($1.4 billion) and “Avatar: The Way of Water” ($2.3 billion) have shown audiences are willing to pay billions to see films with feminist or environmentalist themes. However, their success is still notable as these are original projects from auteur creators, full of passion and things to say.

General audiences are willing to engage with overt leftist messaging in movies if they are new and exciting and give them a reason to see them on the big screen — rather than just waiting for them to drop on Disney Plus in three months.

The limited release of last year’s “Godzilla Minus One” has proven to be an excellent example, with the highly political anti-war message movie becoming a global success story. The low-budget Japanese monster movie, with a tiny budget of less than $12 million, grossed $112 million worldwide. It set a record as the third highest-grossing foreign film in U.S. box office history, earning $56 million domestically, and subsequently won Best Special Effects at this year’s Academy Awards.

“Oppenheimer” and “Dune: Part Two” are both similarly political, grappling with themes of political oppression, the ethics of nuclear weapons, charismatic leaders, and the dangers of religious extremism. However, they are both well-written movies with spectacular filmmaking and rarely engage in openly hostile partisan politics.


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