The summer of '05 continues to be one big stretch of quicksand for Hollywood, as picture after picture disappoints then disappears. Dreamworks' The Island (see "Movie review: The Island"), which cost $124 million, opened to a dismal $12.1 million box office on a weekend that saw all movies in theaters gross 9 percent less than the same period last year (see boxofficemojo.com).
Perhaps studio execs, flummoxed (and even panicked?) by an eroding appeal, should convene a big think and ask what is going on. One speculation: The public knows there's a war going on, but Hollywood doesn't. As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, not a single major motion picture has been released that honors the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are fighting the distant battles, or the terrorist trackers at home.
Four years is a lot of time in which to make a movie. The war years of World War II saw the studios pump out "rally the public" flicks just like Detroit turned out tanks. Some of the titles: Flying Tigers, Casablanca, Wake Island, Guadalcanal Diary, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, Sahara, Mrs. Miniver, Bataan, A Yank in the R.A.F., Objective Burma! and many, many more.
(In case you were wondering, of the nearly 90,000 tanks produced in the United States during WW II, the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant built a quarter of them.)
The United States is still building tanks, but Hollywood isn't interested in films that support the Global War on Terror.
There are no doubt plenty of reasons why box office revenues are sagging, including a youth culture with so many more entertainment options. But the suits in the studios might ask themselves whether they are collectively sending a powerful message to that portion of the American public who understand the stakes and admire the troops.
And their shareholders might also ask: Could a movie about Pat Tillman or the battle for Fallujah or the special forces on horseback in Afghanistan or the march to Baghdad do worse than The Island?