This summer not many of the tentpole movies have been delivering the goods, Mike Goodridge argues.

Does it deliver? It’s a question that is asked of studio blockbusters when they hit theatres, and generally refers to whether they satisfy the target audience and provide the bang for the big bucks spent on them. This summer not many of the tentpole movies have been delivering the goods. In the domestic market Sex And The City 2 and Shrek Forever After have failed to hit the heights of predecessors in their franchises, Prince Of Persia and Robin Hood were disappointing, while films like The A-Team and Marmaduke have been flops.

Eighties reboot The Karate Kid lifted the box office last weekend with a $56m opening, but up to now, only Iron Man 2, which this week crossed  $300m, has been a bona fide smash. Of course the international grosses on Robin Hood and Sex And The City 2 have both far exceeded domestic but the excitement around the summer films is muted to say the least.

So what’s going wrong?

Could it be that audiences – more specifically world-leading US audiences – are growing weary of of age-old characters and recycled concepts? We all know that studios are wary of original concepts these days but how come the most anticipated film of the summer is visionary director Christopher Nolan’s Inception whose premiere screening to exhibitors should have Cinema Expo buzzing in Amsterdam next week. And what lessons can we learn from the fact that the biggest film of the year to date is Avatar, another original borne of the mind of James Cameron?

Of course, the summer should pick up with Toy Story and Twilight sequels and then there’s the July 4 weekend face-off between an animated TV series adaptation The Last Airbender and original action comedy Knight And Day which has been styled as a starring vehicle for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

But will the films deliver? If they don’t, word of mouth and critical drubbings can have immediate impact on their legs at the box office. 

And if audiences are paying a premium to see The Last Airbender, which was retro-converted from 2D to 3D, their expectation that the product be good is higher. If their expectations are disappointed, it might deter them from future film-going.

So what is the answer? Studios are doing anything but opting for the next Inception or Avatar. Next summer will have new instalments in the Pirates Of The Caribbean, Transformers, Hangover, Cars, X-Men, Kung Fu Panda, Fast And The Furious and franchises with Captain America as the annual Marvel offering.

Summer 2012 has new outings for Madagascar, Ice Age, Star Trek, Batman, Spider-man and Men In Black all lined up in addition to Marvel’s The Avengers. The next three years will also see sequels to Mission: Impossible and Clash Of The Titans and another Bourne movie.

Is it any wonder that wide audiences are starting to show fatigue at these unimaginative epics, especially as they start to reach episode four or five in their franchises? But are the studios, which have never been more conservative in their greenlighting decisions, ready to bank on new concepts again?

Perhaps, the invention in studio film-making will continue to come from big name film-makers like Cameron and Nolan who can apply their hard-earned clout to get more adventurous stories made. Audiences meanwhile may enjoy seeing Captain Jack Sparrow or Peter Parker or Carrie Bradshaw in new settings, but, as Avatar showed, they prefer those event movies which offer something surprising and new.