It would be easy to slap together a list of the lowest-grossing movies of the year and then make fun of them. It wouldn't be fair, though. A lot of independent films only play on two or three screens for a couple weeks before going to DVD or Video-on-Demand. Their theatrical grosses are tiny -- often less than $50,000 -- but that doesn't mean they were failures. Those films usually didn't cost much to make, and a big box-office haul was never in the cards anyway.
It will be much more sporting, then, to look only at the wide releases, the films whose distributors put them on more than 1,000 screens and then got jack-squat in return. These tend to be the bloated studio productions, the cynical cash-grabs, the absurd star vehicles. They are ripe for mockery, especially insofar as this mockery makes us feel better about ourselves. (Even a big-studio "flop" is seen by hundreds of thousands of people, which is more famous than we will ever be.) So here are...
The Lowest-Grossing Wide Releases of 2010*
*For our purposes, wide release is at least 1,000 theaters. All grosses are U.S.-only and courtesy of Box Office Mojo.
Dishonorable mention: 'Letters to God' (Gross: $2.9 million. Widest release: 897 theaters.) This Christian-themed tearjerker, about a boy with cancer whose letters to God are intercepted by an alcoholic mailman, only played on 900 screens. But we wanted to mention it anyway, mainly because it's about a boy with cancer whose letters to God are intercepted by an alcoholic mailman.
10. 'Splice' (Gross: $17 million. Widest release: 2,450 theaters.) The divisive reviews didn't help. The icky premise probably turned a lot of people off, too. It turns out the audience for Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley creating genetic abominations is smaller than anyone realized.
9. 'Youth in Revolt' (Gross: $15.3 million. Widest release: 1,873 theaters.)
Michael Cera as an awkward, neurotic, sardonic teenager? Audiences just couldn't accept such bizarre stunt casting.
8. 'My Soul to Take' (Gross: $14.7 million. Widest release: 2,572 theaters.) There was a time when a horror film written and directed by Wes Craven would automatically be a hit. It is not that time anymore. Remember 'Music of the Heart,' directed by Craven, where Meryl Streep played a music teacher? That made more money than 'My Soul to Take' did.
7. 'Repo Men' (Gross: $13.8 million. Widest release: 2,521 theaters.) We got our hopes up thinking this was a sequel to the 1984 Emilio Estevez film 'Repo Man,' only to discover it was actually a futuristic sci-fi thriller about the market for human organs. So sad.
6. 'Case 39' (Gross: $13.3 million. Widest release: 2,212 theaters.) This psychological thriller was shot like four years ago, and stars Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper had no interest in promoting it or even discussing it, and Paramount Vantage didn't screen it before it opened, and, well, there you go. Case closed!
5. 'Let Me In' (Gross: $12.1 million. Widest release: 2,042 theaters.) Let's face it. No matter how good it was, a moody remake of a Swedish import about a non-sparkling teen vampire was never going to be a blockbuster. But we were still surprised at just how poorly this fared in theaters. For comparison's sake, 'Twilight: Eclipse' made $300 million, and even 'Vampires Suck' made $36 million. This is why we can't have nice things.
4. 'Extraordinary Measures' (Gross: $12.1 million. Widest release: 2,549 theaters.) Lovable stars Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in a heartwarming drama about a man trying to cure the disease that's killing his children? How could such an enterprise fail? Oh, right: We can see the same thing for free on the Hallmark Movie Channel.
3. 'Jonah Hex' (Gross: $10.6 million. Widest release: 2,825 theaters.)
Haha, remember 'Jonah Hex'? It is a movie that came out this year.
2. 'MacGruber' (Gross: $8.5 million. Widest release: 2,551 theaters.) There have been 11 films based on 'Saturday Night Live' characters. Two of them, 'Stuart Saves His Family' and 'It's Pat: The Movie,' only played in limited release. Of the remaining nine, where does 'MacGruber' rank? Ninth. Ouch. It made even less money than 'Blues Brothers 2000' and 'The Ladies Man.' OUCH.
1. 'The Warrior's Way' (Gross: $5.6 million. Widest release: 1,622 theaters.) Ninjas meet cowboys in the Old West. Geoffrey Rush plays the town drunk. Kate Bosworth is a hooker with a heart of gold, or something. What's amazing isn't that the movie did so poorly, but that it ever found its way to theaters at all. Its $5.6 million box office translates into about 700,000 tickets sold, which means it was seen by fewer people than the average episode of 'Cake Boss.'