You consider yourself to be a film guru. You pride yourself on viewing movies in actual theaters that none of your friends or acquaintances ever see in any medium. Still, can you honestly claim to be one of the dozens (or less) of people who actually bought a box office ticket to see one of these bombs? If so, then you win the filmgoers’ version of a Golden Razzie.
To be fair, there are often contributing factors to a film’s awful box office tally. For instance, all of these films were released in just a single American theater. This happens quite a bit when the moviemakers simply want to honor a commonly-arranged deal with the Screen Actors Guild. The agreement usually permits the SAG actors appearing in the film to earn a lower rate for their work if the movie is released domestically – but there’s no provision on how wide the U.S. release has to be (or whether it even has to be promoted). The film producers then try to make their cash in the overseas film markets.
Still, there are plenty of limited-release single theater movies who manage to exceed the $500 mark, which represents somewhere between 40 and 80 tickets sold depending on how much the theater charges for admission. Given that reality, there’s really no excuse for the dysfunctional performance of these ten films on this list. Here are the worst domestic grossing films released since 2000, along with actual quotes from plot synopses on the Web.
10. The Magician (2010): $406
There are a number of movies in recent years with this same title, but this film was the one released for one week around Halloween four years ago. And it had nothing to do with traditional magic. Instead, it was a faux-documentary which focused on an Australian hit man who persuades a film student living next door to produce a movie about his life. But instead of regaling us with action-packed tales of his exploits, he instead drones on about “the banalities and intensities of human interaction and obsessive interest in detail.” Wow. Can’t believe this one didn’t sell out theaters. But it does feature the man with perhaps the best name on the silver screen: Massimiliano Andrighetto, an actor/cinematographer.
9. Skinless (2014): $400
Didn’t see this horror flick over spring break this year? It opened on March 7th and ran for a whopping nine days. The debut of film distributor Phantom Pain Films, the movie focuses on an oncologist who thinks he has discovered a cure for skin cancer in a parasite’s belly. But he makes the time-honored movie mistake of testing the cure on himself (why not pay some homeless dude to try it? Seriously!) and turns into a monster. What follows is a “sad tale of madness, murder, monsters, and love.” What’s pretty sad when a film sports a budget of only $2,000 and falls 80% short of breaking even at the box office.
8. Apartment 143 (2011): $383
Despite its abysmal American box office total, it actually grossed over $425,000 internationally. The paranormal horror movie about strange occurrences in an apartment building actually had some veteran actors in it: Kai Lennox (Todd in the FX TV series “Legit,” and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Gia Mantengna (Vanessa King in the TeenNick TV series “Gigantic,” and In The Land of Women), and Michael O’Keefe (most recently as a recurring character in TNT’s “King and Maxwell” and Danny Noonan in Caddyshack). Apartment 143 only ran for the first seven days in June of 2012.
7. The Marsh (2007): $336
This film is about a writer whose vacation turns into a supernatural mystery. The movie’s star, Gabrielle Anwar, is better known as Fiona Glenanne, the sultry ex-secret agent on USA Network’s “Burn Notice” which ran until last year. The Marsh also featured Louis Ferreira, who is now co-starring in the ABC series “Motive.” But it was also the movie in which the indomitable Forest Whitaker appeared right before he completed work on his memorable role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland – for which he won a Best Actor Oscar. At least The Marsh performed well internationally by grossing over $2.4 million, perhaps because of its star power.
6. Intervention (2007): $279
However, The Marsh wasn’t the biggest bomb in ’07 – that crown goes to this eclectic-group-battles-addiction drama Intervention, which ran for just seven days from November to December of that year (not your first choice in feel-good holiday movies, most probably). Its cast is fairly recognizable, with raspy-voiced siren Jennifer Tilly, makeup pitchwoman/actress Andie MacDowell, the actor who plays Tywin Lannister on “Game of Thrones“, Charles Dance, British TV series actor Rupert Graves (Lestrade in “Sherlock”); and career character actor Colm Feore (most recently Oscorp employee Donald Menken in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). To its credit, the film did almost ten times better internationally.
5. Playback (2012): $264
There are some actors whose films have run the gamut from wildly successful to rotten stinkers. Christian Slater is one of them. But even up against such forgettable titles as Gleaming the Cube, Hard Rain, and Heathers, it was this 2012 crooked-cop-battling-small-town-evil flick that takes the “Slater cake” for box office futility. To be sure, this decade hasn’t been stellar for Slater, who most recently headlined the ABC series “Mind Games” that got the axe this year after 10 episodes; although Slater does appear as an evil-fighting priest in this year’s straight-to-Blu Ray film Way of the Wicked. Side note: the single-theater release Playback took in $252 in its opening weekend in March of 2012 – and $12 during the other four days it ran.
4. The Objective (2009): $95
And now, we get into the sub-$100 (under-a-Benjamin?) grossing films of the last decade and a half. Leading off is a film about a special ops team in Afghanistan who “find themselves in a Middle Eastern ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of ancient evil.” Its principals included Jon Huertas, best known as Detective Javier Esposito on the ABC TV series “Castle;” and Jonas Ball, who played the infamous murderer Mark Chapman in The Killing of John Lennon. The Objective stayed in its one theater for nine long days, which comes out to a daily box office average of just over $10.55. The only good thing we can say about this megabomb was that it did manage to outperform fellow 2009 release…
3. Dog Eat Dog (2009): $80
Like The Objective, this movie was distributed by IFC in the same year (thankfully, the studio also released 2009 films like “foul-mouthed comedy” In The Loop, which grossed almost $2.5 million). Dog Eat Dog told the tale of two thugs in the Colombian crime world who screw up and “unwittingly sign their own death sentence” (much like the film itself, as it turned out). The Spanish-language flick made the film festival circuit, but only managed to sell a handful of tickets in its week-long appearance at the one U.S. theater that had the misfortune to screen it.
2. Storage 24 (2013): $72
The movie title comes from the London storage facility in which a group of people are trapped with an alien being. It stars actor Colin O’Donoghue, who is probably ecstatic that he nabbed the role of Captain Hook in ABC’s “Once Upon A Time;” as well as Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Albert Nobbs) and writer-director-star Noel Clarke (Star Trek Into Darkness). It garnered a pedestrian 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a similar 3.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon. But Storage 24 did gross over $646,000 overseas.
1. Zyzzyx Road (2006): $30
Actually, you may have heard about the weird story surrounding this movie which starred a pre-“Grey’s Anatomy” Katherine Heigl and veteran actor Tom Sizemore. The plot was basically boy-meets-girl, boy-knocks-out-girl’s-ex, boy-drives-to-desert-to-kill-girl’s-ex-and-hell-breaks-loose. Several actors turned down the film’s parts, and Sizemore even got arrested shortly before he was scheduled to shoot (though he was acquitted of drug charges). After the $2 million movie was produced, it aired in a single Dallas-area theater (why Dallas? Who knows?) for a February-March week and was seen by exactly five paying customers. Thankfully, the film managed to take in about $368,000 that year in almost two dozen foreign countries. But it has set a mark for box office dreadfulness that may never be broken.