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Hollywood’s Imploding Summer Movie Strategy

Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in R.I.P.D., one of the summer's big flops
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in R.I.P.D., one of the summer's big flopsPhotograph by Scott Garfield/Universal/Everett Collection

This summer’s movie season kicked off with a dramatic prediction from Steven Spielberg, who lambasted Hollywood for its over-reliance on its “tentpole” business model supported by superheroes, gunfights, and special effects: “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe a half-dozen mega budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground.”

In other words, Hollywood is exhibiting a classic case of The Innovator’s Dilemma–the tendency for dominant players to improve their products along traditional dimensions. The big six studios are extending a proven business model, targeting mainstream customers with blockbuster experiences of the type they already consume. The summer of 2013 may go down as the apex of that approach. More than 20 movies with production budgets over $100 million have or will be released between Memorial and Labor Day, making it the most mega-budget-filled summer in history.