In Hollywood, studio executives deal with eye-watering figures every day. Sometimes their eyes are wet with excitement; when box office figures from opening weekends reach unimaginable numbers. But on the flip-side, there can be tears of devastation as some big-budget movies cost studios millions upon millions of dollars and barely scrape back their budget. $50 million might sound like a staggering amount to us, but in Hollywood terms it’s not even close to what big producers expect to make back.
Even the very best in the industry can get it wrong, in the following cases – very wrong. Walt Disney Studios feature a staggering three times on this list of movies that lost over $100 million, with a collective loss reaching over $350 million.
On the other side of the box office lottery, the reigning king is 21st Century Fox; throughout 2014 they had incredible success with X-Men: Days of Future Past ($745 million), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($611 million) and The Fault in Our Stars ($286 million). Audiences just couldn’t stop throwing money at them.
Big studios can’t just bomb at the box office and then all is forgotten; a disaster will always stand against their name, as people love to talk about box office disasters. After all, the name John Carter has become more widely mentioned since the movie left cinemas than it was during the time when Disney spent $100 million on promotion alone. It’s become legendary as one of the biggest flops of all time.
Still, with big summer hits like Jurassic World, Spectre, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road coming to local cinema screens, Hollywood should have a record breaking year in 2015. But however ‘big budget’ a movie is, audiences have the ultimate power, and these ten movies prove that cinema-goers won’t watch just any old multi-million dollar rubbish.
10. The Lone Ranger: $94 -$119 million
Within its opening weekend, the media had already begun to label the movie a box office flop, comparing it to the previous Disney commercial disaster John Carter (2012). If you have not seen The Lone Ranger (2013) then you should take into account that the New York Post critic Lou Lumenick labelled it a “bloated, misshapen mess, a stillborn franchise loaded with metaphors for its feeble attempts to amuse, excite and entertain.”
The New York Times were the first paper to start drafting up the figures and publish just how much The Lone Ranger had lost. They estimated the film cost $375 million to produce, which meant that earnings would have to be at $650 million to make any profit back due to revenue shares with theater owners. Overall the total losses were estimated between $94 -$119 million. Disney’s vice-president, Dave Hollis, said it was all “very disappointing”.
Disney could have just looked at previous films with a Western concept and seen that Wild Wild West (1999), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and Jonah Hex (2010) all lost huge amounts of money at the box office too to determine just how well The Lone Ranger would have done. As the cinemas were full with audiences excited to see Despicable Me 2(2013) it was clear the world wanted minions, not cowboys.
This is not the only recent flop from Johnny Depp as he has also starred in Transcendence (2014) and Mortdecai (2015) which received scathing reviews and dismal returns at the box office. Depp said in one of his latest interviews he doesn’t “give a f**k” about how well his movies do; which is good because they are doing terribly.
9. Stealth: $100 million
This film cost $135 million to produce (not including the marketing budget) and dragged behind Wedding Crashers (2005) which cost less than $50 million to make. The cheeky comedy succeeded in taking double what Stealth made at the box office opening weekend.
The critics killed off any chance Stealth (2005) had of success by handing out dismal reviews; Rotten Tomatoes gave an embarrassing score of 13% claiming it was “loud, preposterous, and predictable”. Metacritic also didn’t think very highly of the big budget production granting it only 35% commenting it was a “dumbed down Top Gun”.
What worsened matters was before the movie was released; Leo Stoller who is a self-proclaimed ‘intellectual property entrepreneur’, claimed that he owns the rights to the word ‘stealth’ and served Columbia Pictures with a cease and desist letter threatening legal action if the movie wasn’t renamed. This then bought on a counter-suit from Columbia Pictures who were granted a permanent injuction against Stoller in November 2005. Again, big money always means big drama and the film lost $96 million (currently over $100 million with inflation).
8. The 13th Warrior: $101 million
Originally titled Eaters of the Dead; The 13th Warrior (1999) was on a budget of around $85 million which before production ended sent costs soaring to $100 million. Then the original cut did not go down well with test audiences (firstly, they hated the title so that prompted the change) several scenes went through expensive re-shoots, as well as ongoing marketing costs – this all added another $60 million to the production before it even had its first release.
The movie was bought to the screen by Jurassic Park author, Michael Crichton, and Die Hard director; John McTiernan. When it was eventually released, audiences were too busy throwing their money at The Sixth Sense (1999) to worry about a historical story featuring Antonio Banderas and the film grossed just $61 million worldwide.
It was such an embarrassing flop that one of the main actors, Omar Shariff, retired from acting immediately afterwards. He spoke of his reason behind the decision explaining “Bad pictures are very humiliating, I was really sick. It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring.” Don’t hold back, Shariff.
7. Jack The Giant Slayer: $101 million
Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) was set to make $30 million in its opening weekend, according to predictions, which wasn’t the greatest of figures considering costs were over $180 million to get the movie on screen. What was even more disappointing is that it didn’t take anywhere near this and instead the figures were at $400,000 by the end of the opening weekend.
The studio had specifically set out to target families as they knew this market would bring them the biggest commercial success, however ticket holders were mostly males over the age of 25. The director, Bryan Singer, was aiming for a dark twisted tale but the studio wanted family fun; which lead to a clash in creativity and the final cut ended up not being able to satisfy either of the groups.
The movie made a loss of $101 million, despite a reviewer from The Hollywood Reporter claiming it was “superior to the recent Hobbit”. It wasn’t superior financially that’s for sure.
6. John Carter: $109 million
With big losses comes big drama and John Carter was no exception to this rule. Rich Ross had arrived as the new head of Walt Disney Studios after huge success with the Disney Channel and when he took on his new position John Carter (2012) was already in development.
Executives were already hesitant about continuing with the project. Ross could have either stopped production as he did with a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or cut the budget as he did to The Lone Ranger (2013). Neither happened and the film continued throwing money down the drain.
The movie was even given a $100 million marketing campaign on top of the budget and the total production costs came to $263 million, which is an earth shattering amount considering everyone was hesitant about going ahead with the release anyway. It’s fair to say the film went on to flop; with an estimated loss of $108,610,950.
Who got the blame? Firstly, Ross blamed Pixar which, rightly so, infuriated them. Then the marketing executives were blamed for not mentioning on the posters that the film was inspired by an Edgar Rice Burroughs book, which would have attracted his fan base. The studio then turned on Ross himself and he promptly resigned. All that is left behind now is the legacy of one of the biggest flops in Disney’s history.
5. Sahara: $119 million
Sahara (2005) set Paramount pictures back an eye-watering $160 million and then the production company were taken to court by the author who wrote the original story. Further issues were discovered throughout the trial including over $200,000 of the budget was spent on location bribes in Morocco. The highly publicised trial before its release really didn’t do the movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, any favours.
Director Breck Eisner originally wanted the movie to be the first of a new action-adventure franchise, similar to the success of Indiana Jones. The blame largely lies with the fact there was twenty producers and screenwriters involved; this does come across on screen as it has a messy plot, strange pop soundtrack and odd casting choices. Basically, it was doomed.
The unusual thing about Sahara is it was flop, that actually wasn’t. The box office sales generated $119 million but due to such an enormous budget (there was $2 million spent on one helicopter crash scene alone) it just couldn’t claw itself back into these figures. Paramount lost just over $100 million from the whole experience.
4. R.I.P.D: $119 million
If you have ever thought of watching R.I.P.D. (2013) then maybe you should take into account what Kyle Smith, reviewer at the New York Post, had to say about the movie:
“For a movie that so strenuously rips off Ghostbusters and Men in Black, R.I.P.D. manages to come up with fresh new ways of being absolutely terrible. The plot manages to be fully predictable and freakishly bonkers at the same time, seemingly born of the same kind of brainstorming-on-L.S.D. session that must have given us Howard the Duck”.
With scathing reviews such as this, the opening weekend made sales of just 10% its $130 million production budget. The movie is an adaption of the comic book Rest In Peace Department by Peter M. Lenkov, and starred Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. Zach Galifianakis was also set to star but pulled out due to scheduling conflicts – a lucky escape. The epic flop lost the studio $119 million.
3. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: $125 million
Sometimes, it’s best just to listen to the fans. Die-hard gamers know the franchises they adore; inside and out. Before the release of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) there was already pessimists worldwide discussing how it could possibly make its money back. To date there haven’t been many notable video game adaptions and although this was the first film by the director, Hironobu Sakaguchi, he didn’t manage success either.
The movie performed very well in Australia, New Zealand and South Korea; just not the rest of the world. In 2001 the total losses came to an estimated $94 million, with current inflation that total is more like $125 million. Ouch. The production company who were based in Honolulu, Square Pictures, were supposed to be celebrating their first feature but they were forced to file for bankruptcy instead.
The majority of the huge $137 million budget was spent on the exceptionally-expensive CGI which took many man hours during its four years to produce. Set in the year of 2065, the graphics were hyper-realistic and revolutionary. It was just unfortunate nobody saw it to appreciate it.
2. Mars Needs Moms: $130 million
Mars Needs Moms (2011) failed so badly it went down in history as the worst box office reception for a Disney movie ever. It made just $6,825,000 on its opening weekend which is also the 14th worst opening for a film played in more than 3000 theaters. When the net loss of money is considered (a whopping $130 million) it becomes the second largest box office bomb in history.
Reasons for such crushing losses? The script was about a mother kidnapped from her child, not really the nicest for family viewing. Battle: Los Angeles (2011) was also released at the same time, which took the majority of audiences for the weekend. The style of animation didn’t get audiences hyped up and left social media complaining that the movie was more focused on technology than story.
The critics gave mixed reviews overall; with a large majority negative. Although the acting was praised, the visuals were overly criticised calling it too expressionless and some even referred to it as creepy. Rotten Tomatoes handed Disney yet another embarrassing score of just 37% claiming “the cast is solid and it’s visually well-crafted, but Mars Needs Moms suffers from a lack of imagination and heart”.
1. 47 Ronin: $149 million
47 Ronin (2013), starring Matrix legend Keanu Reeves, opened in Japan to 753 screens throughout the nation; but managed to gross only $1.3 million. Considering the majority of the cast were well known Japanese actors and the tale the movie was based on was famous in the country also; this dismal opening was an early warning sign that it might be another box office bomb.
Rumours were that the Japanese audience were not inspired or delighted by the Hollywood remake, some claiming it had no resemblance to the renowned historical epic. In America the takings were’t good either, with a sales revenue of just $20.6 million in its first five days of release. The movie opened in 9th place at the box office and 5th place in the United Kingdom.
Excluding advertising and distribution costs, the production budget alone was $175 million. Estimated losses were $149 million, making this movie hit the top spot on the historical list of box office bombs.
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