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Why Michael Bay's Ambulance Bombed At The Box Office

Michael Bay's latest movie, "Ambulance," dropped in theaters over the weekend and suffered a full-on stroke at the box office — with not even Jake Gyllenhaal or Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II being able to resuscitate it. According to Variety, the action-packed heist thriller managed to rake in an embarrassing $8.7 million domestically, despite being shown in more than 3,400 theaters across North America. "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," meanwhile, was able to coast to a $71 million weekend on a $90 million budget (via Box Office Mojo). 

With no profit in sight for Bay's most recent outing, film analysts have started looking at what could have actually caused "Ambulance" to go into cardiac arrest at the box office since reviews for it were pretty positive. Over on Rotten Tomatoes, the two-hour flick has a 67% Tomatometer rating and 88% audience score. Kristy Puchko, a reviewer with Mashable, called it a "raucous thrill ride with streaks of Bay brilliance." Stephanie Zacharek, with TIME Magazine, said: "For a surprisingly solid stretch, 'Ambulance is great fun." So what's the catch? Why didn't anyone actually go see the Gyllenhaal and Mateen-led tour de force? 

The Netflix-ification of action movies may be to blame for Ambulance bombing

According to Variety, film analysts believe the "Netflix-ification" of action movies in recent years has caused people to basically ignore run-and-gun blockbusters like "Ambulance" when they debut in theaters now, since most viewers already have access to so many similar flicks at home. 

"Big-budget action movies were once the bastion of the big screen," explained Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. "Only the movie theater [could] render these expensive films profitable," he told Variety. "[Those films] are now finding favor with audiences on streaming platforms, such as Netflix, who have the cash to produce such films," Dergarabedian said. Indeed, Netflix films like "Extraction" and "The Old Guard" are readily available to subscribers — no ticket needed.

While experts also point to "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" and its success as another major factor, most believe that ever-growing action movie libraries on Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and other streaming apps have played the biggest role. Even Michael Bay, himself, has gotten in on the stay-at-home phenomenon — releasing "6 Underground" with Netflix in 2019. "Today's audiences want something special every time," said David A. Gross, head of the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. "The bar is set higher now," he told Variety.