Everybody remembers the winners, the charmers, the entertainers. While everyone forgets the losers, the wannabes, the eyesores. And rightly so. But while all will look at the big hits of the year, the superstars who proved worthy of their big pay cheques, and the rising actors and directors, we decided to have a final look at the big movies that went bust this year. There is a lesson to be learnt from them too, mistakes that could be avoided in the future. These weren’t movies that were unfortunate to be ignored by the audience, for they truly deserved the snub. But the reasons for their failure extend beyond the quality of the films. So here’s a look at five of the biggest movies to burn in 2013…
5) After Earth
A sci-fi film with Will Smith in the mix of things usually works. Or so it seemed. Until we saw After Earth. This movie had a fairly interesting story to tell, that of a young boy (Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith) battling in a much more dangerous Earth of the future to save his father. It could have been the vessel of resurrection for the director M. Night Shyamalan. What it turned out to be was a vessel of doom for all. The movie’s screenplay was disastrously poor. The movie lacked the splendor that it had promised to provide, it lacked the thrill and excitement that the story was set out to deliver. Will Smith put on one of his blandest performances in a decade, and eventually there was too much on young Jaden Smith’s shoulder to carry. The movie opened alongside one of the surprise performers of the year, Now You See Me, and the audience chose the latter for entertainment. With a production budget of $130 million, the highest that Shyamalan has ever worked with, the movie’s domestic earnings of $61 million was abysmally poor. A better foreign run led to $244 million in worldwide earnings, but that was not enough to save any blushes for Sony Pictures (the ones behind the movie); Sony in fact reported a 19.3 billion yen loss (close to $200 million) in the quarter ending September and blamed its movie business, and the likes of After Earth for the weak performance. Everyone was a loser here!
4) White House Down
Roland Emmerich’s films usually do not fail. They do not provide much in terms of the quality of the story, but they do deliver in excess when it comes to adrenalin pumping action and excitement. White House Down was made on pretty much those same lines. Well, the house of cards had to finally fall. Channing Tatum had come on the back of a spectacular 2012, and Jamie Foxx is an Oscar winner after all. But their combined presence too wasn’t enough for this ‘no story, all action’ flick. The movie’s big mistake was to open months after a similar-themed movie (Olympus Has Fallen), and then to not really offer anything more. It did come with some over-the-top action sequences in the typical Emmerich fashion, but maybe by now, we have seen them all. The way buildings blow is the same, the car chases are the same, the gun fights are the same. Investing $150 million for a typical no-brainer action movie turned out to be a poor choice for Sony Pictures, as White House Down got clobbered to $73 million in domestic earnings and a total collection of $205 million worldwide. This one turned out to be worse performer than After Earth and released only four weeks after it, making for a really terrible quarter for Sony. To add salt to its wounds, White House Down got bullied by the ladies in The Heat, a movie made at only one-fourth of its budget, on its opening in North America.
If you have never heard of this movie or heard it but decided to stay away, then well done. You saved yourself from these challenging 90-odd minutes, where life seems to slow down and simply die. And for those who did venture to the theatres, we pity you. The movie had Ryan Reynolds, the movie had Jeff Bridges. There was no reason for it to be too terrible, right? Wrong. R.I.P.D. proved to be one badly enacted badly choreographed movie that no one seemed to really care about. It was slow, boring, sleep-inducing, with visual effects that seemed a century old. Any comparison with Men In Black is a sacrilege! The movie was a major box-office disappointment. It opened seventh in North America, and on the same weekend when a ghost tale became one of the most celebrated movies of the year aka The Conjuring. So, on a production budget of $130 million, the movie made only $34 million domestically and a total of $78 million worldwide. The losses here could be to the tune of $90 million, or even more, for Universal. Simply put, R.I.P.D. got spooked out of the theatres!
2) Jack the Giant Slayer
Jack the Giant Slayer was one of the early big-budget movies to hit the theatres. It had already seen a change in name, and a change in release date, which already gave the feeling that all was not right with this one. But there was Bryan Singer to bank upon; no doubt, not the most of consistent of directors, but a safe bet more often than not. This time of course, the bet went horribly wrong. The movie was supposed to be an adventure-filled story, adapted from a famous fairy tale, aided by the splendor of the ever-improving visual effects. While the movie was not terrible by any means, it was nothing spectacular too. The story became predictable at each step, wherein much of the charm was lost; the visual effects never gave the feel that something epic and grand was happening, which was a let-down; some good actors were wasted due to the lack of depth in the plot. It was a mediocre film, the kind you see and forget, with no love nor hate. And all would still have been fine, if not for the humongous bankroll that went into making the movie. $195 million, is what they say! Are you kidding me, is what many of you would have thought, for the movie never lives up to the scale it was meant to reach. Eventually, the movie scraped a partly $65 million domestically and $198 million worldwide. While the film’s mediocrity did not help, neither did the release date which put it up against the much superior Oz the Great and Powerful. This one would have hurt the pockets of Warner Bros. and financial partner Legendary Pictures to the extent of $140 million (as the marketing budget of the film is also said to be quite high). Someone should have told them not to plant those seeds!
1) The Lone Ranger
How is it possible that a Johnny Depp film could end up as the poorest performer of the year? How is it that a Disney film could stumble to such lows? Questions that continue to stump us. We’ll get the numbers out of the way first. This was Disney’s biggest movie of the year with a production budget estimated to be about $215 million. The movie did not even earn $100 million at the domestic box-office, making only $89 million before its run ended. The foreign earnings were nothing spectacular either, despite the Depp factor, and so in all it had a worldwide collection of $261 million. The losses estimated by Disney on this one are as high as $160 million to $190 million. Choose any end of the range, and it is still a staggering figure to lose! While one can in hindsight try to analyze the things that went wrong with this film, the first thought that comes to the mind is that too much money was ploughed into quite a mediocre film. The Lone Ranger just like Jack the Giant Slayer never seemed to justify its production budget. It was mediocre all the way round, in terms of story, action, thrill, and even the acting of Johnny Depp, who gave one of his weakest performances for years. Its 150-minute long runtime seemed stretched, nor was the production design to build a “Wild West” set eye-catching. At times being average is still fine, but not when you are aiming for earnings of more than half a billion dollars to justify the big production budgets. Then you had the problem of putting Johnny Depp in the supporting role. The marketing too made it quite clear, that the movie’s titular character was not Depp but the relatively less known Armie Hammer (who did his job well, nonetheless). So there went much of the “Depp” reason to watch this film. And then the biggest folly. It was released on the same weekend as a much awaited animated sequel, which eventually went on to become the second biggest hit of the year; yep, you got it, Despicable Me 2. Never mess with the minions! While Despicable Me 2 opened to $87 million in North America, The Lone Ranger earned just $29 million. That was the death knell. Disney has had a grand year this time, and the only blip has been The Lone Ranger. It was a movie which the actors and the studios would still survive, though the concept of the Ranger itself might be dead for many a years to come, until some brave soul revisits it and decides that the Ranger must live on. Hopefully, he would be wiser and not make these mistakes which led The Lone Ranger to be the biggest flop of 2013!
The ones above have not been the only movies to witness the shame of empty seats and terrible losses in 2013. The much recently released 47 Ronin has opened to a disappointing figure in North America, and Universal is poised to take a write-off on this $175 million film. Based on a popular sci-fi book series, Ender’s Game has not justified its $110 million budget with only $88 million earned so far in worldwide revenues. There are also the sub-$100 million budget films which were wiped off instantly from the box-office charts. The notable ones are the Harrison Ford-Gary Oldman starrer Paranoia, the Julian Assange biopic The Fifth Estate and the remake of a South Korean film Oldboy; these movies opened with some of the worst weekend figures seen in the past decade, and their total domestic gross collections did not even cross $10 million.
The list of disappointing films in 2013 would stretch further on, but despite this, it has still been a grand year for Hollywood with quite a few records being broken. The goods have outnumbered the bads. But there is a growing line of thinking that the studios are betting too heavily on big budget films, as we saw 2013 unleash the highest number of $100 million plus budget films. History would tell us that there have been times when the ballooning budgets of films which never worked on the box-office have led to lot of trouble to the studios, even insolvency. And so a bit of astuteness with a bit of skepticism when throwing in the big bucks to fund a movie may just turn out to be a wise thing to do. Hope lessons are being learnt!