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Hollywood lives and dies by the all-consuming “opening weekend.” It’s those first 48 hours that predicts the success of a film. The initial period in which all the hard work, sweat, and tears are rewarded by hundreds of millions of dollars globally. But equally, this is a critical time in which the fate of a film rests on its financial windfall. Though there are a lot of success stories, there are also a lot of tragic disasters at the box office. Spiraling budgets, tantrums on set and natural disasters are all part of what destroys the fate of a movie. Here we discuss the tales of those films that fall into the category of the biggest box office bombs of all time.
But before we get into the failures, let’s consider that maybe technology can help. Perhaps there is a new future on the horizon where algorithms and advanced technology can help detect better odds for the film studio at the box office. If you look at other industries, this has already become possible by using algorithms to predict the numbers that bring them success.
Although due to accounting practices the films below have differing reports about their figures, based on the available numbers and adjusted for inflation, these are the movies that you could say gave a new meaning to the world flop.
01) The 13th Warrior: -$100 million
The 13th Warrior (1999) was not a good financial investment. You would think after this appearance that Antonio Banderas would spend the rest of his years hiding under a rock, but no, he still makes movies. Adjusted for inflation, the production costs of this film spiraled to an incredible $160 million. It made a measly $61 million at the box office, but ultimately, its large sinkhole was never going to fill up again. The 13th Warrior ultimately lost about $100 million dollars.
02) 47 Ronin: -$24 million
Maybe if you have a number in your title, then you’re destined to be doomed, but here is number two on the list. Courtesy of director Carl Rinsch, 47 Ronin (2013), which stars Keanu Reeves as a samurai, went so far over budget that the director was yanked from his duties in postproduction. With an estimated budget of $175 million, it was doomed from the start. 47 Ronin made only $38 million in the United States. Overseas revenue helped earn the film $151 million in cumulative worldwide gross revenue. But at the end of the day, the film lost $24 million dollars likely due to bad reviews and a confusing title. Ouch.
03) Cutthroat Island: $-88 million
The pirate blockbuster, Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine had no luck on its side. Are you ready for this? The film was budgeted at $98 million and made just $10 million at the box office according to the final cumulative worldwide gross. Was Cutthroat Island (1995) cursed perhaps? The irony here is that just eight years later, Pirates of the Caribbean went on to make well over 1 billion at the box office.
04) Mars Needs Moms: -$129 million
Have you ever heard of a Disney animated film losing money or being a major box office flop? Did you ever think that Hollywood icon Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) experienced failure? Mars Needs Moms is a 2011 sci-fi fantasy with a cumulative worldwide gross of just $39 million. At a cost of $150 million to make, it is one of the biggest flops in Disney history. A Disney executive once said of the film: “the filmmakers spent at least two years of their lives making a terrific movie that people won’t see.” The film lost $129 million dollars.
05) The Adventures of Pluto Nash: -$93 million
Have you seen Eddie Murphy lately? No? This is why. He ended up in strange movies like The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002). How did he go from blockbusters like Coming to America to this? No one knows. Here he plays the lead in a film that costs $100 million to produce but with a box office gross of $7.1 million worldwide. You do the numbers or don’t, maybe it hurts too much. The bottom line, Pluto Nash lost over $93 million dollars.
06) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: -$52 million
What is it about far-fetched ideas that send budgets spiraling out of control? Here is another doozy. A spin-off from the video game Final Fantasy, the film animation was technically ahead of its time. But between its postproduction costs and big-name talents like Alex Baldwin and Steve Buscemi, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) cost $137 million to create. Taking in only a disappointing $85 million, the film lost a total of $52 million dollars.
Using Algorithms to Predict Box Office Success
So, there you have it, big-screen films that defy the law of failure. Hollywood definitely needs some advanced intelligence or to start using algorithms to predict success and production budgets. Maybe we’ve all learned something here. Should you want to make films, there are a few rules to follow: never put numbers in your title, always stay clear of strange movie premises in a sci-fi setting and most of all, always hire a group of accountants. It will probably be the best decision you ever make.
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Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.