‘Ben Hur’ to ‘BFG’: Hollywood’s Biggest Box-Office Bombs of 2016

Three films in 2016 broke through the 1 billion dollar barrier at the box office ( Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and Zootopia) and in a year when even a 50 million dollar film like Deadpool can return  $783 million you would think that film makers would be ordering a larger swimming pool to fill with money.

(Note, Star Wars: Rogue One has not at time of recording broken 1 billion dollars. I have no doubt that it will, it just hasn’t done it yet.)

But not every film can make untold piles of money, and with blockbusters requiring more and more CGI (and therefore larger budgets) it’s easier and easier for a film to return a good amount of money and still be regarded as a bomb. And of course it’s still as easy as ever for a film made on a shoestring to make nothing and be a bomb.

And naturally it’s still next to impossible to find out how much is spent on advertising anything so I still prefer to double whatever number Wikipedia says was spent on the film.

Oh and before you ask Monster Trucks does not feature on this list because it hasn’t flopped yet. It’s going to, at time of writing it has made 4 million dollars back against a $125 million dollar budget (which will also get you 1 Assassins Creed or 1 Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and 10 million dollars for popcorn) it just hasn’t done so yet.

 

In order to do the maths on this,  The Hollywood Reporter consulted with several box-office experts in calculating losses, factoring in production budgets and marketing spends, which can vary wildly, and ancillary revenue, including home entertainment. In some cases, losses are given as a range. THR also calculated how much of a film’s production budget was covered by worldwide box-office returns. Studios get back only about 50 percent of the box office total, known as “rentals.”

Got that?

But first, some dishonorable mentions.  Sacha Baron’s Cohen’s The Brother’s Grimsby, which grossed $25.3 million on a $35 million budget, making the film the worst in Cohen’s career; Andy Samberg’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which grossed $9.4 million on a $20 million budget; sequel Zoolander 2, which grossed $55 million on a $50 million budget; and the Matthew McConaughey-starring Free State of Jones, which grossed $25 million on a $50 million budget.

And now onto the really big flops… (in no particular order).

Ben-Hur – Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov’s Biblical-themed epic grossed only $26.4 million at the domestic box office following its August release. It fared somewhat better at the international box office, bringing in $67.7 million for a global total of $94.1 million. But the movie cost at least $110 million to make and required a major marketing spend, meaning it lost as much as $120 million, making it the biggest loser of 2016, according to box office analysts. MGM and other partners financed more than 80 percent of the budget, taking the biggest hit. Paramount, which distributed the film, lost about $13 million.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 43 percent.

The BFG-  Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic children’s book marked one of the biggest box office bombs of the acclaimed director’s career. The July 4th tentpole topped out at $55.8 million domestically and $178 million worldwide after costing a hefty $140 million to make before a major marketing spend. The BFG lost $90 million-$100 million for partners Disney, Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 64 percent.

Gods Of Egypt- Lionsgate’s ancient fantasy epic derailed at the box office following its late February release. The pricey $140 million movie grossed $31.1 million domestically and $119 million internationally for a global total of $150.7 million. Gods of Egypt likely lost as much as $90 million, but Lionsgate’s loss is mitigated dramatically via its foreign output deals. (Also, Lionsgate doesn’t spend as much on marketing as the six major Hollywood studios.)

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 53 percent.

The Huntsman: Winters War- Sans Snow White — played by Kristen Stewart in the first film — Unviersal’s sequel/spinoff The Huntsman: Winter’s War failed to cast a magic spell at the box office following its late April release. The movie, which saw Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Huntsman opposite Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt, topped out at $164.6 million despite costing at least $115 million to make, plus a major marketing spend. Box-office analysts put the loss in the $75 million-plus range. The first film, Snow White and the Hunstman, grossed $396.6 million in 2012.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 71 percent.

Allied – Director Robert Zemeckis’ WWII spy adventure was one of several big misses for Paramount in 2016, and could lose $75 million to $90 million. The Thanksgiving release, costing at least $85 million to make, is all but done with its North American run with a lowly total of $39.3 milion. The news isn’t much better overseas, where Allied has grossed $41 million (it’s now opened in all of its major markets) for a global total of $80.3 million. It certainly didn’t help that Brad Pitt had to scale back a major publicity push because of his divorce from Angelina Jolie.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 47 percent.

The Finest Hours- In March, Disney chairman Bob Iger told investors the company was taking a $75 million hit for The Finest Hours. The U.S. Coast Guard historical drama, released in January, cost $80 million but only earned $52.1 mililon at the global box office, including $25.6 million domestically. It’s rare to announce a write down, since the loss of a specific movie can generally be absorbed.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 33 percent.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows limped to $82.1 million domestically and $245 million worldwide — half as much as what the first film earned in 2014 ($493.3 milion). The June release, costing $135 million to make before a major summer marketing spend, lost at least $75 million for Paramount.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 64 percent.

Ghostbusters- The remake of the classic comedy, featuring female leads, topped out at $229 million worldwide on a $144 million production budget and a major marketing spend. Sony insiders had said the movie would need to do $300 million to break even. Losses were in the $70 million range, although Sony’s hit is closer to $50 million because of various partners, including Village Roadshow.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 80 percent.

Alice Through The Looking Glass- In spring 2010, Disney and director Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland grossed a fantastical $1.025 billion. But the follow-up, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was a major bomb, topping out at $299.4 million globally after its late May release. (While stars Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska returned, Burton did not.). The $170 million — which lost at least $70 million for Disney — was among a slew of sequels, requels and reboots that were struck by the sequelitis virus. It came in 70 percent behind the first film.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 88 percent.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant- The Divergent Series: Allegiant was a devastating blow since its poor box-office performance resulted in Lionsgate announcing that it would produce the final film in the YA franchise, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, for television rather than the big screen. Allegiant grossed $66.2 million domestically and $179.2 million worldwide against a $110 million budget and marketing spend. (The first film, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, grossed $297.2 million globally.) Allegiant likely lost Lionsgate $50 million.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 81 percent.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk-  Ang Lee’s technological wonder, Life of Pi, grossed $600 million worldwide in 2012 but his follow-up, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, was entirely rejected by audiences. Lee used cutting edge frame-rate technology to shoot the film, but only a few theaters were equpped to play Billy Lynn in its intended format, so it played in the usual format everywhere else. Billy Lynn, costing at least $40 million to make, earned an abymsal $1.7 million in North America following its Nov. 11 release and $26.2 million globally, meaning it could lose $40 million or more for Sony/TriStar Pictures and its partners. Part of the reason the loss is so high is that — even though Sony cut its marketing spend — Billy Lynn is likely to do little business on home entertainment or TV.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 33 percent.

Rules Don’t Apply- Warren Beatty’s passion project, which he spent a decade developing, finished its short domestic theatrical run with just $3.65 million. New Regency and a host of influential Hollywood names and billionaires — including Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin — backed the $25 million film, which stands to lose most of its budget, although the loss will be spread around. Fox released the movie, which is one of its lowest-grossing wide releases of all time.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: Less than 1 percent.

What did you guys think? Any films you thought would appear but didn’t? And what do you think will be the biggest flop of 2017?

 

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