Friday, 27 December 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1104: Floptopsy 2013!

2013 was a rough year for flops, some were big and really painful, damaging and ending careers, while others were smaller but no less illuminating when we try to uncover the root causes. So let's take a look at some of the biggest, try to figure out what went wrong, and maybe try to prevent it…

BUDGET: $225-$250 million 

BOX OFFICE:  $260,502,115

When you include the marketing costs the film lost somewhere between $150-$200 million. It was the final nail in the coffin of the relationship between Disney and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Why did it flop so badly?

1. It was a Western. Audiences these days only seem to enjoy westerns that are like True Grit, historically believable, well written, well directed and well acted, and not overwrought special effects heavy fantasias. There are lots of examples from Wild Wild West to Jonah Hex, but Disney didn't seem to care.

2. The franchise needed an archaeologist to find it. Let's face it, it's been decades since the Lone Ranger and his life partner Tonto even graced reruns on a regular basis. The kiddie ticket buyers didn't know it, and didn't care about it.

3. All it promised was over indulgence. Everyone involved, except Army Hammer, seemed interested only doing things they thought were cool. Depp got to wear weird outfits and talk funny, director Verbinski got to do overwrought stunts, effects, and other business, and Bruckheimer got to show everyone that no one can spend money more loosely than he could. There seemed absolutely no interest in giving the audience a story they could enjoy.

47 Ronin
Estimated Budget: $175 million
Box Office: So far pretty crappy.

Here's the pitch, let's take a beloved historical epic from another culture about honour, duty and revenge, and turn it into a blown out fantastical monstrosity that will offend fans of the original work and bore the crap out of everyone else since it seems to have no story beyond a bunch of people in groovy outfits fighting CG monsters.

Folks have seen it before, and need some narrative meat on the digitally rendered bones.

Beautiful Creatures
Estimated Budget: $65 million
Box Office: $60 million

This flick, while with an all-star supporting cast, and based on a popular YA series, failed to click with the target audience who were busy being all wrapped up in The Hunger Games, and was lost amid all the Harry Potter imitators.

Estimated Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $13.7 million

Based on a best-selling corporate espionage thriller by Joseph Finder, but the film flopped probably because star Liam "I'm Thor's Brother" Hemsworth, came across as a bit of a non-entity, and it was released to compete against the summer's big budget blockbusters, which were bound to drown out any film that doesn't involve a super-hero.

White House Down
Estimated Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $205 million

Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx have been doing pretty good at the box office in recent years, but this incoherent exercise in property-damage porn from Roland Emmerich had too much familiarity and too little entertainment to connect with audiences.

Machete Kills
Estimated Budget: $33 million
Box Office: $15 million

The first Machete movie was a box office after-thought clearing $44 million internationally, barely breaking even, when you include marketing and distribution. Which means that despite the chatter over the stunt casting of people like Lindsay Lohan, Lady GaGa, and Charlie Sheen, and the crass faux-grindhouse faux-silliness, the franchise really doesn't amount to much.

Estimated Budget: $18 million
Box Office: $10.5 million

The film was essentially sold as a cheap imitation of bigger and better films, lacking the sleazy cheesecake novelty of Spring Breakers, or the promise of anything but a pretty stale story that's been done dozens of times before. 

Bullet to the Head
Estimated Budget: $55 million
Box Office: $9.4 million

Sly Stallone has been a novelty act for a very long time, and audiences can only really take the presence of an overly steroided senior citizen if he's doing something amid a crowd of other old school action movie novelty acts.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Estimated Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $22.5 million

The film just didn't look right from the get-go. The script had more passes from more writers than a virgin at the International Lothario Convention, and Jim Carrey didn't help with his very public stances on controversial issues ranging from vaccines to gun control.

After Earth
Estimated Budget: $110 million
Box Office: $243.8 million

The film came across as Will Smith trying to make his decidedly uncharismatic son a movie star, peppered with a lot of semi-Scientological chatter, and absolutely no attempt at any scientific verisimilitude.

The poor kid, possibly crippled by affluenza, couldn't even raise enough emotion to look anything more than mildly inconvenienced in the poster art.

Estimated Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $4 million

Spoiler alert. The entire film is premised on an elaborate revenge conspiracy that takes decades of criminal activity, dozens of people, and millions of dollars to trick a man into having sex with his daughter.

That was seen as an out-of-the-blue twist in the original, but a remake loses the novelty. Plus audiences are still iffy on the whole Josh Brolin as a leading man thing.

Estimated Budget: $130 million
Box Office: $78.3 million

Too much money was spent on adapting a comic book that very few outside of hardcore comic readers even heard of. The ad campaign can be summed up as "Guy from True Grit, and Guy From Green Lantern In Mash Up Of Men In Black With Ghostbusters With Lots of Boring CGI Carnage."

Jack the Giant Slayer
Estimated Budget: $195 million
Box Office: $197.5 million

A story everyone knows heavily laden with CGI that everyone has seen before. Not much of a selling point.

The Fifth Estate
Estimated Budget: $28 million
Box Office: $8.5 million

Ender's Game
Estimated Budget: $115 million
Box Office: $87.9 million

A cult sci-fi novel that's loaded with all sorts of discussion of morality, war, and the rights of man and the state gets sold as a form of Hunger Games in space with the CGI put front and centre. 

The problem is that CGI is only a selling point when the audience knows the franchise as a vehicle for telling entertaining stories. If they're not as familiar with the original source material, it looks like just another overblown knock-off. 

Battle of the Year
Estimated Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $13.7 million

Anyone who admits to seeing a movie as a starring vehicle for brat-bully Chris Brown should be publicly shamed.

Tyler Perry Presents Peeples
Estimated Budget: $15 million
Box Office: $9.3 million

No one man can be on top forever, and there's a point when putting your name on everything can be seen as ego stroking and eventually turn off even the most hard-core fans.


  1. You should have included the promotion costs.,

    Rainforest Giant

  2. It's hard to get concrete P&A numbers, so you have to estimate the costs between $20 million on the low side to $100+ million for the bigger productions.

  3. Is that due to the creative accounting or general business secrecy? How much of a budget is real? Meaning if megastar gets 20 mill on paper but see's a fraction of that do they count that as part of the budget even though it's never paid?

    Rainforest Giant