Greatest Box-Office
Bombs, Disasters
and Film Flops:

The Most Notable Examples


Greatest Box-Office Bombs, Disasters and Flops of All-Time
(chronologically, by film title)
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Film Title, Director, Studio, Budget Information, Description

John Carter (2012)
Director: Andrew Stanton
Studio/Distributor: Buena Vista
Budget: $250-263.7 million
Domestic Gross: $73 million
Worldwide Gross: $284.1 million
Total Net Loss: $114-200 million
Total Estimated Loss (Inflation-Adjusted): $127-223 million

Disney's big-budget live-action film has the dubious honor of acquiring the largest box-office loss of any film. In addition to its exorbitant $263.7 million budget, it also spent over $100 million for marketing costs. There were issues with the inadequate and lackluster marketing (lack of merchandising and other ancillary tie-ins) and management changes at the studio. Another problem was that the film had no big-name stars. It ultimately proved unwise to select Andrew Stanton as the director because it was his first live-action film (his previous experience was with Pixar animations), and Stanton ultimately engaged in lots of expensive reshoots.

It was also commonly acknowledged that the film's teaser trailers, posters, and ads (TV and print) were way off-the-mark (generically flat and uninspiring), provided an unclear message about the film (a non-sequel), and generated only moderate interest.

The plot of the sci-fi fantasy-action film was based upon Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1917 story A Princess of Mars - his first novel, originally serialized in 1912 in a pulp magazine (100 years earlier) with Burroughs' pseudonym (Norman Bean). Interestingly, the film was originally titled John Carter of Mars, but the title was shortened - some believed presumably, to avoid associating the film with Disney's other recent flop Mars Needs Moms (2011).

When first released in early March of 2012, the infamous film faced major domestic competition from a film in its second week of play, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (2012). Although the film performed much better overseas (especially in Russia), it was never destined to recoup its massive mega-marketing and production costs.

The swashbuckling, often confusing story (with live-action and CGI) was about the interplanetary adventures of fortune-hunter John Carter (Friday Night Lights TV star Taylor Kitsch), a veteran ex-Confederate Civil War captain. He was inexplicably transported from a Southwest cave (via astral projection) to the mysterious, exotic and dying planet of Barsoom (a fictionalized version of Mars).

It followed his attempts to mediate civil unrest amongst the various warring Martian races and kingdoms and alien creatures. The main Martian characters included four-armed Green Martian warrior Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) - the leader of the nomadic Tharks, and Carter's love interest - the Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the Princess of Helium. Both Carter and the Princess struggled to save her homeland from invaders guided by shape-shifting time travelers known as Therns.

47 Ronin (2013)
Director: Carl Rinsch
Studio/Distributor: Universal
Budget: $175-225 million
Domestic Gross: $38.4 million
Worldwide Gross: $151.8 million
Total Net Loss: $97 million
Total Estimated Loss (Inflation-Adjusted): $106 million

This dull and tedious big-budget samurai film was one of the most poorly-reviewed films and biggest flops of all time. Part of the reason for the heavy expense was a delayed release date in order to add 3D and some reshoots (an extra love scene, additional close-ups, and more lines of dialogue to increase the presence of US star Keanu Reeves). Also, first-time director Carl Rinsch was fired during post production in late 2012, forcing editors and others to help save the troubled work. When 47 Ronin was released at Christmas-time, it was forced to compete against a slew of stronger films, including Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), writer/director Peter Berg's and Universal's own Lone Survivor (2013), and Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013).

The epic 3D fantasy adventure was a Westernized version of a classic and timeless ancient Japanese tale, already filmed twice in Japan - Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin (1941, Jp.) (aka Genroku Chushingura), and Hiroshi Inagaki's Chushingura (1962, Jp.) starring Toshiro Mifune.

Set in 18th century feudal Japan, the martial-arts action film starred Keanu Reeves as mysterious half-breed outcast Kai, who ultimately joined a group of 47 outcast samurai led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). The samurai's objective was vengeance against murderous and evil overlord Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) - aided by a shapeshifting Witch (Rinko Kikuchi), who had killed benevolent province Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) before banishing his now-masterless Ronin warriors. Their quest to stop Lord Kira also involved preventing his marriage to Lord Asano's beautiful daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki) - the childhood love interest of Kai.

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
Director: Bryan Singer
Studio/Distributor: Warner Bros. (New Line) and Legendary Pictures
Budget: $185-200 million
Domestic Gross: $65.2 million
Worldwide Gross: $197.7 million
Total Net Loss: $105 million
Total Loss (Inflation-Adjusted): $115 million

Bryan Singer's mildly-likeable adventure fantasy might have been more successful if it had been targeted as a true family-friendly film (along the lines of The Princess Bride (1987)). However, it turned out to be more tween-friendly, with lots of fantasy violence, some PG-13 scat humor, and a dark tone. It was typical of Hollywood's big-budget obsession with expensive performance motion-capture CGI visual effects and grandiose 3D, employed to enhance a simple fable or story. The basis for the distorted screenplay (by a team of three scripters) was derived from two early 18th century British fairy tales: Jack the Giant Killer, and Jack and the Beanstalk. [Note: Fortunately for Singer, he was redeemed the following year by the massive success of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).]

Multiple reshoots, expensive and time-consuming CGI effects for the giants (produced by the problematic visual effects company Digital Domain that verged on bankruptcy), and rescheduled release dates contributed to its major financial problems. When it was finally released in early March of 2013, it was # 1 at the box office (at $27.2 million), but then found itself competing for the same audience (in the following week) with Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013), and only obtained $9.8 million, while Oz took in $79.1 million for its opening. It was estimated that Legendary Pictures easily lost over $100 million on the film.

The titular brave hero Jack (Nicholas Hoult) was a young farmhand on a quest to rescue the plucky regal heroine Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) who had been abducted by a race of ravenous giants. He had unwittingly unleashed (with a sack of magical beans sprouting into a towering beanstalk) the giants by opening a gateway to their legendary world of Gantua (between Heaven and Earth) and ignited an ancient war.

The Lone Ranger (2013)
Director: Gore Verbinski
Studio/Distributor: Buena Vista
Budget: $225-250 million
Domestic Gross: $89.3 million
Worldwide Gross: $260.5 million
Total Net Loss: $160-190 million
Total Estimated Loss (Inflation-Adjusted): $176-209 million

It was clear to Disney Studios even in 2011 that their western action film had an exorbitant budget - estimated to be approaching over $250 million. The film was prematurely cancelled, but then there were significant efforts to scale back and reduce the costs of production by cutting major salaries, modifying the screenplay, and editing out expensive special effects sequences. When production recommenced, it suffered further problems including set-location damage (due to weather), illness, wildfires, and injuries to crew members (including a fatality in 2012), and there were delays in the release date. Global marketing expenditures increased the overall budgetary costs.

When the overly-lengthy film (with surprising violence) was released in mid-summer on its opening 4th of July weekend (at $29.2 million), almost immediately, it was labeled a tremendously disappointing flop (compared to Disney's earlier John Carter (2012) and Mars Needs Moms (2011)) - and reviled by critics. It had to compete and compare itself with the sequel Despicable Me 2 (2013) - with only a $76 million production budget and almost three times the revenue (domestic) on the same opening weekend (at $83.5 million). [Note: Ultimately, Despicable Me 2 had total domestic revenue of $368 million, about 4 times that of The Lone Ranger.] Although The Lone Ranger did better in foreign markets than domestic markets (surprising for an American western!) at $171.2 million, it was impossible for it to recoup its expenses.

Disney Studios had now experienced a long string of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced failures with bloated budgets and major declines in box-office revenue: G-Force (2009), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010), and now The Lone Ranger (2013).

The western was told with a flashback-framing technique, in which the central top-billed character was aging 'noble savage' Comanche Tonto (Johnny Depp) in San Francisco in 1933, the Lone Ranger's sidekick. He narrated the back-story of his association with The Lone Ranger (aka John Reid) (Armie Hammer). The action was set in the late 1860s in John Reid's childhood town of Colby, Texas, where he was deputized by his Texas Ranger brother Dan Reid (James Badge Dale). The antagonists in the film included escaped cannibalistic outlaw-criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and greedy railroad tycoon-executive Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). Ultimately, John donned a mask to hide his identity, rode his spirited horse Silver, was armed with a silver bullet, and eventually brought vigilante justice to the town.

The film received two Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. It also received five Razzie nominations (with one win): Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actor (Johnny Depp), Worst Screenplay, and a Razzie for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel.

R.I.P.D. (2013)
Director: Robert Schwentke
Studio/Distributor: Universal
Budget: $130-154 million
Domestic Gross: $33.6 million
Worldwide Gross: $78.3 million
Total Net Loss: $91-93 million
Total Estimated Loss (Inflation-Adjusted): $100-102 million

Universal's supernatural action-comedy starred Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as two members of the R.I.P.D. (Rest-in-Peace-Department) respectively: wisecracking, Wyatt Earp-like ex-US Marshal Roycephus "Roy" Pulsipher, and murdered detective Sergeant Nick Walker of the Boston Police Department. The two "ghost cops" were undead partners in the after-life, tasked to finding and returning evil souls on Earth (monstrous spirits or zombies known as "deadoes" who were hiding and disguised as ordinary people) who refused to move peacefully to the afterlife.

During the odd-buddy couple's adventures after returning as a pair of deceased lawmen to Boston, they often had to appear as avatars - Nick's avatar was an older short Chinese guy (James Hong), while Roy's was a tall, busty blonde bombshell (Sports Illustrated swimsuit and Victoria's Secret lingerie model Marisa Miller). The two discovered an apocalyptic plot to reverse the tunnel flow of souls to the nether-world.

The wasted, half-baked effort was an adaptation of Canadian writer Peter Lenkov's Dark Horse comic book Rest in Peace Department. It was a dull recycling of other sci-comedies such as Men in Black (1997) or Ghostbusters (1984), and referenced in part Heaven Can Wait (1978), Beetlejuice (1988), Ghost (1990), and Down to Earth (2001) with Chris Rock.

Almost immediately after its poor mid-summer opening weekend showing (at only $12.7 million), and far behind its major horror film competitors on the same weekend, WB's The Conjuring (2013) (at $41.9 million) and Fox's animated Turbo (2013) (also with Ryan Reynolds, at $21.3 million), it was labeled a major box-office bomb.

Some of the misfiring film's exorbitant budget was devoted to 3D conversion, but many commented upon the poorly-executed CGI, cheesy production design and special effects. Sensing that they had a stinker on their hands, Universal avoided an advance screening, and only previewed the film for critics hours before the picture's opening.

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