There is no universally accepted method for calculating a movie’s profitability. Studios do not release comprehensive data movie-wise, and so all that we are left with are certain thumb-rules to gauge how well a movie has done. As a result, one cannot make a decisive list of the top and bottom movies of the year based on their profits. Even without the entire costing data, we can still work with two things that are more readily available: the production budget and the worldwide box-office collections. While there is always quite a long list of movies that do badly at the box-office, the ones that always standout are those where huge money was spent on production. By ‘huge’ I mean more than $100 million! Studios putting in that much money, along with the marketing budgets that could be 40% to 80% of the production budgets, should have done a lot of homework in terms of the appeal of the movie and its worldwide box-office potential. These movies usually have some big acting names, there is a lot of promotion involved, and everything seems bright and rosy, until the day the movie releases. And then some of them flop! Every calculation goes out of the window, and the extent of losses at times is quite mind-boggling. Here are five such movies from 2015, movies made on expensive budgets, that notoriously failed to perform at the box-office.
Production budget: $190 million
Domestic box-office: $93.4 million
Worldwide box-office: $209.0 million
Tomorrowland was the kind of high-profile flop of the year that makes the front pages. Director Brad Bird, a genius of the Pixar clan and also the director of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, looked to be someone who could command a costly ship that dealt with a fantasy land which existed in another time and space, sought by a curious teenager and a former boy-genius. There was the credibility of George Clooney’s name attached to the movie, and there was Disney overseeing this large budget movie. It all seemed right, but it wasn’t. Released in May, the movie’s opening barely did better than the second weekend collections of Pitch Perfect 2. It dropped sharply in subsequent weeks, and found muted enthusiasm in global markets too which became its death knell. In years to come, Tomorrowland will be spoken of in the same breath as John Carter and The Lone Ranger which isn’t good company to keep. On the bright side, Brad Bird is back making a movie for Pixar, George Clooney still rocks, and young Britt Robertson has five movies to her name for 2016.
Production budget: $176 million
Domestic box-office: $47.3 million
Worldwide box-office: $183.8 million
Wachowski siblings’ sci-fi fantasy flick Jupiter Ascending looked doomed from early on when its release date moved from a prime summer slot in 2014 to the obscurity of an early release in 2015. With a $176 million production budget, the movie would have needed $500 million plus earnings to breakeven. It managed only a fraction, piling on the misery on Warner Bros. The movie’s reviews were terrible, and while the stars Mila Kunis and Chaning Tatum are expected to emerge unscathed, the Wachowski siblings might find the going to be tougher from hereon.
Production budget: $150 million
Domestic box-office: $34.9 million
Worldwide box-office: $126.4 million
Warner Bros. and director Joe Wright brought out an origins story for Peter Pan where the boy who never grows up meets a young Hook and takes on a ruthless pirate called Blackbeard. The movie received a backlash even before its release on the casting of Rooney Mara as a Native American. The reviews that followed were dismal, and on a lacklustre October weekend Pan opened in North America with the lowest earnings for a $100 million plus budget movie in 2015. The presence of Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard did not help much, with the movie collecting only $126 million worldwide. The marketing budget is in fact said to have been above a $100 million which is astounding, and that means the losses could actually be as high as $150 million. Whatever be the actual figure, Pan is a massive debacle for the studio!
Production budget: $120 million
Domestic box-office: $56.1 million
Worldwide box-office: $167.9 million
In a period when superhero movies work more often than not, the rebooted version of Fantastic Four failed miserably. A much publicized dispute between studio 20th Century Fox and director Josh Trank was just a sign of things to come, as the movie opened to a much lower figure than the previous 2005’s Fantastic Four. 20th Century Fox has rights to another set of Marvel characters too called the X-Men, where it can do no wrong, but when it comes to Fantastic Four, the studio can do no right. Quite bravely and foolishly, the studio mentioned that a sequel will still be produced, but it has quietly dropped it from its 2017 movie roster. If a sequel ever comes up, it will need a lot of re-working for sure.
Production budget: $95 million
Domestic box-office: $17.2 million
Worldwide box-office: $114.1 million
I wouldn’t be surprised if more than half the people reading this post may never have heard of Russian director Sergey Bodrov’s Seventh Son. It was originally scheduled for a February 2013 release, but got delayed due to post-production work, then distribution issues, and then possibly to just give it a bad weekend to open in, which was in February 2015. Presence of Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore did hardly any good, and the fantasy flick, based on a book series, sunk in the same weekend as The Jupiter Ascending. No one is making a sequel to this movie, that’s for certain!
There are a few more notable flops of 2015. Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea had a high production budget of $100 million but opened poorly in North America. The movie has earned $56 million worldwide so far, and is still running in many foreign markets; that is why I have not included the movie in the above list. Other flops of the year that had modest production budgets but should have done much better than their eventual collections are: Blackhat, Rock the Kasbah, Victor Frankenstein, The Gunman, Child 44, Mortdecai, Aloha, Unfinished Business, We Are Your Friends etc etc.