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Box Office Drops 24 Per Cent: It's the Quality, Stupid

Washington has nothing on Hollywood when it comes to cataclysmic mood swings. After banking on "Avatar" and the resulting 3-D bubble to bring crowds back into theaters, studio chiefs are now wringing their hands over the plummeting box-office tallies registered by established franchises such as "Sex and the City," aspiring franchises such as "Prince of Persia," and a slew of failed one-offs such as "Killers" (that's Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher in a scene from the widely reviled action farce, above). This past weekend, the box-office take dropped 24 per cent from the same weekend last year. Why should anyone be surprised?

Even the fast-food industry changes its menu more than Hollywood does. In the trailers, almost all the movies look the same: the explosions, the crashes, the gun battles, the floors littered with drug apparatus and liquor bottles -- and that's just the comedies. If one movie out of five turns out to have something distinctive, audiences may never go to find out.

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The reliance on "new media" instead of fresh talent to stoke big-screen entertainment hasn't exactly panned out. Walking out of "Prince of Persia" I overheard one college-age guy tell a pal, "Well, that's definitely going to be a video game one day." "No," said his more with-it friend, "It already is one."

Last night, NBC ran a half-hour special -- more of an infomercial -- on the opening of a vast Harry Potter attraction at the Universal Orlando theme park, using expanded versions of the set designs from the Harry Potter films. I thought, at least the promoters got the order right. The Potter films have been batting .500 in my book, a very high average for a lengthy series; both their imagery and their storyline provide rich fodder for spin-offs. But movies based on theme-park rides, instead of the other way around, tend to drop into wretched excess swiftly. Is anyone apt to re-watch the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels? Does anyone even remember "The Haunted Mansion?"

For that matter, have you seen any "big" movies in the first six months of 2010 that you think you're going to  look back fondly on a year from now? For the rest of the summer, I have high hopes for "Toy Story 3" and "Knight and Day" and even for "Inception." Are there any hot-weather flicks you're looking forward to?

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