The phrase box office bomb (also referred to as a flop) refers to a film for which the production and marketing costs greatly exceeded the revenue regained by the movie studio. A film’s financial success is often measured by its gross revenue. Studios expect that a film’s “domestic” (which the American film industry defines as the United States and Canada, and other film industries define as their home country) box office gross revenue will exceed production costs. This does not make the film profitable; typically, the exhibiting theater keeps 45% of the gross, with the remainder paid to the studio as the rental fee.
Inchon (also called Inchon!) is a 1982 drama film about the Battle of Inchon during the Korean War. The protagonist of the film is General Douglas MacArthur (Laurence Olivier), who led the United States surprise amphibious landing at Inchon, South Korea in 1950. The film is a fictional retelling of the historical events.
Total cost (production + marketing) $46 million. Worldwide theater gross $50 million. Net losses $40.8 million.
Battlefield Earth (also referred to as Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000) is a 2000 American science fiction film adapted from L. Ron Hubbard’s novel of the same name. It was directed by Roger Christian, and stars John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, and Barry Pepper. The film depicts an Earth that has been under the rule of the alien Psychlos for 1,000 years and tells the story of the rebellion that develops when the Psychlos attempt to use the surviving humans as gold miners.
Total cost (production + marketing) $103 million. Worldwide theater gross $29.7 million. Net losses $73.3 million.
Supernova is a 2000 science fiction horror film, from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists. Originally developed in 1988 by director William Malone as “Dead Star” with paintings by H. R. Giger and a plot that had been called “Hellraiser in outer space.” Jack Sholder was hired for substantial uncredited reshoots, and Francis Ford Coppola brought in for editing purposes. The film shares several plot similarities with the film Event Horizon released in 1997.
Total cost (production + marketing) $90 million. Worldwide theater gross $14.8 million. Net losses $75.2 million.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a 2001 Japanese-American computer animated science fiction film directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series of role-playing video games. It was the first photorealistic computer animated feature film and also holds the record for the most expensive video game-inspired film ever made. It features the voices of Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin and Steve Buscemi. The Spirits Within follows scientists Aki Ross and Doctor Sid in their efforts to free a post-apocalyptic Earth from a mysterious and deadly alien race known as the Phantoms, which has driven the remnants of humanity into “barrier cities”. They must compete against General Hein, who wishes to use more violent means to end the conflict.
Total cost (production + marketing) $167 million. Worldwide theater gross $85.1 million. Net losses $81.8 million.
Green Lantern is a 2011 superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett and Tim Robbins, with Martin Campbell directing a script by Greg Berlanti and comic book writers Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim, which was subsequently rewritten by Michael Goldenberg. Green Lantern tells the story of Hal Jordan, a test pilot who is selected to become the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps and given a ring that grants him superpowers after a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe.
Total cost (production + marketing) $325 million. Worldwide theater gross $219.8 million. Net losses $105.1 million.
Stealth is a 2005 American science fiction action film starring Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas, Jamie Foxx, and Sam Shepard. The film was directed by Rob Cohen, director of The Fast and the Furious and xXx.
The film follows three top fighter pilots as they join a project to develop an automated robotic stealth aircraft.
Released on July 29, 2005 by Columbia Pictures, the film cost $135 million to make, but was panned by critics, and was a colossal box office bomb making only $76,932,872 worldwide, one of the biggest losses in cinematic history.
Total cost (production + marketing) $170 million. Worldwide theater gross $77 million. Net losses $93.8 million.
Heaven’s Gate is a 1980 American epic Western film based on the Johnson County War, a dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. The cast included Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken (credited as Chris Walken), Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif, Joseph Cotten, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Masur, Terry O’Quinn, Mickey Rourke, and Willem Dafoe, in his first film role.
The film’s production was plagued by cost and time overruns, negative press, and rumors about director Michael Cimino’s allegedly overbearing directorial style. It is generally considered one of the biggest box office bombs and worst films of all-time. It opened to poor reviews and earned less than $3 million domestically (from an estimated budget of $44 million), eventually contributing to the collapse of its studio, United Artists, and effectively destroying the reputation of Cimino, previously one of the ascendant directors of Hollywood owing to his celebrated 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which had won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director in 1979.
Total cost (production + marketing) $44 million. Worldwide theater gross $3.5 million. Net losses $40.5 million.
Speed Racer is a 2008 American live action film adaptation of Tatsuo Yoshida’s 1960s Japanese anime series of the same name, produced by Tatsunoko Productions. The film, an Anglo-German co-production, made by a partnership between Velocity Productions Limited and Sechste Babelsberg Filmgesellschaft mbH, is written and directed by the Wachowski brothers.
Actor Emile Hirsch was cast as Speed, the hero of the animated series, and Christina Ricci portrays Speed’s girlfriend, Trixie. Speed Racer was shot between early June and late August 2007, at Studios Babelsberg in Potsdam, and in and around Potsdam and Berlin, Germany at an estimated budget of $120,000,000. Speed Racer premiered on May 3, 2008 as the closing film at the Tribeca Film Festival, and was released on May 9, 2008. The film has earned $17,968,063 in DVD sales making $114,997,404 in its total film gross. In September 2011, TIME magazine included the film on its list of The All-TIME 25 Best Sports Movies.
Total cost (production + marketing) $200 million. Worldwide theater gross $94 million. Net losses $106 million.
Town & Country is a 2001 film starring Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling and directed by Peter Chelsom. It is a romantic comedy in which Beatty plays New York City architect Porter Stoddard, with Keaton as his wife and Hawn and Shandling as their best friends. It holds the distinction of being one of the biggest money-losing films in American film history. This is Beatty and Keaton’s second film since 1981’s Reds. As well, this is Beatty’s third film with Hawn since 1971’s $ and 1975’s Shampoo.
Total cost (production + marketing) $105 million. Worldwide theater gross $10.4 million. Net losses $94.6 million.
The 13th Warrior is a 1999 historical fiction action film starring Antonio Banderas as Ahmad ibn Fadlan and Vladimir Kulich as Buliwyf; it is based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. It was directed by John McTiernan and an uncredited Crichton.
The 13th Warrior is regarded as a financial failure. Production and marketing costs totalled $160 million, but it only grossed $61,698,899 at the box office.
Total cost (production + marketing) $160 million. Worldwide theater gross $61.7 million. Net losses $98.3 million.
Mars Needs Moms is an animated sci-fi adventure film directed by Simon Wells, and based on the Berkeley Breathed book of the same title. The film is centered around a nine-year-old boy who after being grounded, realizes he was wrong to be rude to his mother, and has to rescue her after she is abducted by Martians. It was released on March 11, 2011 by Walt Disney Pictures. The film stars both Seth Green (performance capture) and newcomer Seth Dusky (voice) as the main character Milo, and was the final product of Robert Zemeckis’ studio ImageMovers Digital as the film was both a critical and commercial failure. The title is a twist on the title of American international Pictures’ Mars Needs Women (1966).
Total cost (production + marketing) $175 million. Worldwide theater gross $39 million. Net losses $136 million.
Sahara is a 2005 action-comedy adventure film directed by Breck Eisner and based on the best-selling book of the same name by Clive Cussler. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz.
Though it opened at number one in the US box office, grossing $18 million on its first weekend, Sahara is considered to be one of the biggest financial failures in Hollywood history since Ishtar. From a financial perspective, Sahara was unusual because it performed reasonably well, generating $122 million in gross box-office sales. However, due to its huge budget–including $160 million in production costs and $81.1 million in distribution expenses–its box-office take amounted to barely half of its expenses. The film lost approximately $105 million according to a financial executive assigned to the movie; however, Hollywood accounting methods assign losses at $78.3 million, taking into account projected revenue. According to Hollywood accounting, the film has a projected revenue of $202.9 million against expenses of $281.2 million.
Total cost (production + marketing) $241 million. Worldwide theater gross $119 million. Net losses $121.7 million.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a 2002 science fiction comedy film directed by Ron Underwood and starring Eddie Murphy as the owner of a lunar nightclub investigating who was behind the arson that destroyed his club. The film is considered to be one of the worst box office flops of all time, grossing only around $7.1 million on its reported $100 million budget.
Total cost (production + marketing) $120 million. Worldwide theater gross $7.1 million. Net losses $112.9 million.
The Alamo is a 2004 American war film about the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. The film was directed by Texan John Lee Hancock, produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Mark Johnson, and distributed by Touchstone Pictures.
The screenplay is credited to Hancock, John Sayles, Stephen Gaghan, and Leslie Bohem. In contrast to the earlier 1960 film, the 2004 film attempts to depict the political points of view of both the Mexican and Texan sides; Santa Anna is a more prominent character.
The film received mixed to negative reviews by critics and was extremely unsuccessful commercially. It is officially the second biggest box office ‘bomb’ in cinema history, after Cutthroat Island.
Total cost (production + marketing) $145 million. Worldwide theater gross $25.8 million. Net losses $119.2 million.
Cutthroat Island is a 1995 action adventure film directed by Renny Harlin. The film stars Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, and Frank Langella. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was a major box office bomb: listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time, it bankrupted Carolco Pictures. It was the last film the company produced before it was closed.
Total cost (production + marketing) $115 million. Worldwide theater gross $18.5 million. Net losses $96.5 million.