Thanksgiving is upon us and it's time to gather around the table with your family and carve up some turkey. Meanwhile, in the movie world, it's time to huddle over our internet browsers and carve into some turkeys. And by turkeys, I mean box office flops. You see, it's joke. Because you eat turkey at Thanksgiving and-
Fine, fine. Moving on.
Inspired by an article about the year's box office bombs over at Forbes, let's take a special look at some of the more spectacular failures to hit Hollywood in the past eleven months. We still have a month and some change left before the year's end so the year's biggest turkey may still be waiting in the wings, but as of right now, here are the handful of films, some good and some bad, that failed to leave a mark at the box office.
The Epic Flops
When is a $105 million domestic gross not enough? When your budget is $200. Such is the case for Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood,' which felt nothing like Robin Hood and more like Generic Period Action Flick Starring Russell Crowe. Was a grim and gritty take on one of the world's most celebrated characters the proper approach? Apparently not. By stripping Robin Hood of everything that makes him Robin Hood, the film didn't have the panache to stand out in a crowded summer movie season.
Then there's 'Knight and Day,' an action film that was supposed to be the big comeback for stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz? With a $76 million gross against a $117 million budget, the film did little for either one of them. Although it was a decent showcase for both actors' charms, bland marketing and an even blander film did little to build word of mouth, mainly because audiences forgot everything about the film the moment they left the theater.
Finally, take a look at 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.' What went wrong here? Take a look at some of the other animated films to hit this year. 'Toy Story 3': $414 million. 'Despicable Me': $249 million. 'How To Train Your Dragon': $217 million. 'Megamind': $110 million and counting. 'Legend of the Guardians': $54 million on a $80 million budget. Oversaturation of the marketplace? Irritating trailers? Whatever it was, 'Legend of the Guardians' proved to be a rare big budget CGI family movie flop.
The Aborted Franchises
With the Harry Potter series coming to an end, it feels like every producer in Hollywood is desperately trying to find the next big fantasy tentpole franchise. So far, no luck. The 2010 release that was most obviously coveting the Potter throne was 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.' Although by no means a disaster, the $88 million gross (the film's cost was $95 million) means that we've probably seen the last of Mr. Jackson and his demigod friends on the big screen.
What about 'The Last Airbender,' which ends on a major cliffhanger and still has two seasons of its source material cartoon series to adapt? The $131 million gross may seem respectable at first but the film itself cost $150 million. Not to mention, absolutely toxic word of mouth ensured that everyone in the world knew it was a stinker, slamming another nail into director M. Night Shymalan's career coffin (and indirectly leading to that infamously Shyamalan-endorsed trailer for 'Devil').
While both of those films underperformed, the real DOA franchise of 2010 was Disney's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' which cost $150 million to produce and only made $63 million. Although director Jon Turteltaub and star Nicolas Cage managed to turn 'National Treasure' into a successful franchise for Disney, don't expect to see Cage running around New York throwing fireballs at Alfred Molina again anytime soon. At least not in a movie. If it happened in real life, no one would blink an eye. He's Nicolas Cage, after all.
The Noble Failures
Most of the box office flops mentioned so far have not been particularly good movies, meaning their failure to attract an audience doesn't hurt too much. However, the bombing of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' truly hurts. Although we can take comfort in knowing that Edgar Wright's comic adaptation is an instant classic that will live on for years to come (special midnight showings continue to sell out), the numbers scream pretty loudly: budget of $60 million, gross of $31 million.
Was it the absurd (but accurate) overhyping of 'Scott Pilgrim' that did it in? Maybe. The same could be said for 'Kick-Ass,' which actually did turn a profit, but $48 million seems low in the face of the fanboy praise that preceded it. Then again, a mean-spirited, R-rated superhero movie was going to be a tough sell no matter what critical accolades it collected.
Of course 'Splice' was going to bomb. Releasing an incredibly weird and risky $30 million independent science fiction monster film in the middle of the summer? You do that and you get rewarded with only $17 million. Smart, challenging genre filmmaking is a tough sell as it is...and a tougher sell when you got to contend with the likes of 'Iron Man 2.'
Finally, there's Matthew Reeves' 'Let Me In' which, while not nearly as good as the original Swedish 'Let the Right One In,' was a well crafted and and thought-provoking horror film. Audiences rewarded it with only $12 million. And horror fans wonder why 'Saw' gets seven films and truly great horror remains conspicuously absent from cinemas...
Quick! Time for a lightning round!
'Extraordinary Measures.' "Look! Cranky Harrison Ford is already working around the clock! Brendan Fraser is in this? I thought he died or something. What? CBS films? Is this made for TV? Ick!" $12 million gross.
'Repo Men.' "Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are doing what? Isn't this that musical? No? What's that musical I'm thinking about? Oooh, look! 'The Bounty Hunter'!" $13 million gross.
'From Paris With Love.' "Why does John Travolta look so fat? And why does he look like a white supremacist gang leader with that shaved head and goatee? He's supposed to be a secret agent!? I don't believe you." $24 million gross.
'MacGruber.' "There is no way I'm seeing a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch. Nope. No way. I've been burned far too many times. Not even going to give it a chance. Wait. It's actually good? Eh, I'll see it on DVD." $8 million gross.
Flop of the Year
This has been a year with its fair share of box office bombs, but it takes a certain combination of lousy box office and poor filmmaking to join the pantheon of great movie turkeys. This year, that honor must be bestowed upon 'Jonah Hex,' a comic adaptation about a scarred cowboy bounty hunter and his hooker sidekick going on a quest to take down John Malkovich, who's found Eli Whitney's dragonballs and plans to launch them at Washington DC. Cut down to a thankfully brief 81 minutes, 'Jonah Hex' managed to squeeze $10 million out of an unsuspecting public before they got wise and ran for the hills (the film cost $47 million). Malkovich and star Josh Brolin have major careers to fall back onto, but this may very well be remembered as the film that killed Megan Fox's career.
Congratulations, 'Jonah Hex.' You've truly earned this dubious honor!
Thanks to the invaluable Box Office Mojo for the numbers featured in this piece.