With the second half of 2016 well underway, it’s obvious that movie-goers aren’t taking a strong liking to Hollywood’s gut-wrenching obsession with remakes. Compared to last year’s record high, ticket sales have dropped a harsh 15%.
Before I dive into some of the biggest Box Office flops of 2016 (so far), let’s first explore what actually makes a movie flop.
To simplify it, a film should be making between 3-4 times more than its production budget at the global box office before it can begin making any profit. So, for example, if a film only doubles its budget in the international box office, the chances of it becoming profitable even with DVD and streaming sales are extremely slim – unless of course there is a hidden treasure in the DVD cases causing a mass frenzy of sales. But I think I can safely say that’s pretty unlikely.
So to sum up, a film that loses its studio’s money, is in turn a flop.
Ben-Hur has an established legacy and esteemed reputation… well, the 1959 Charlton Heston-led version does at least. While the original film smashed box office sales, as well as conquered a couple Academy Awards in its golden run, the 2016 remake has conquered little to nothing. The $100 million dollars spent on the new film has been comparable to lending your friend a book: they were never getting it back. Ben-Hur was predicted to be lucky if it could scrape the barrel with $10 million dollars on its opening weekend, which is a huge low-blow for almost any blockbuster. Even though MGM have a small amount left in the marketing budget, it’s very hard to imagine them breaking even on this one, let alone making any profit.
If I could first establish that this is not my opinion of the year’s worst flops, merely fact; hence this is not a plan to inflame the very very mixed emotions behind the reboot of Ghostbusters. Now, feelings aside, for the recent film to make any overall profit, it is estimated that it will have to make over $400 million. I know, I know, it seems like an absolute tone! However, if you crunch the numbers, it will take a total of $150-$200 million dollars out of Sony’s deep deep pockets. But how did we get to these numbers, right? Well I’m glad you asked. Production on the film was $144 million; marketing, adverting and distribution were another $150 million; all on top of the fact that the studios only make about ½ to 2/3 of the ticket sales from the box office.
So as it stands, with a total of $224 million dollars’ worth of box office sales, Sony are still only sitting at roughly $515 million. We then need to minus a legitimate estimate from merchandising and DVD sales, which would be around $100 million. This ultimately takes the box office sales required to break even to approximately $400 million dollars.
This bad loss for Sony gets worse, with the official Ghostbusters video game going bankrupt merely three days after its release in July. Well, I suppose its just another year doing chores around the house for Sony, trying to recuperate their losses one way or another.
The Finest Hour
Disney took a near $75 million backlash from The Finest Hours, a movie about heroism within the U.S. Coast Guard that generated a mediocre $52 million worldwide. Compare this to other Disney-Pixar flicks: on average, they have earned an astonishing $760 million each at the world box office. It isn’t too difficult to spot the irony in The Finest Hours. For the life of them, they couldn’t even muster nearly a fine hour of cinema in the one hour and fifty-seven minute movie. This was all made a little more embarrassing by the Disney CEO Bob Iger, who had only recently praised the 30% raise in average return profits from 2014 to 2015. He may have to change his figures now.
Gods of Egypt
This may come as a shock to you, but Gods of Egypt was originally predicted to open with box office numbers just under that of Deadpool. Correct, the same Deadpool that opened with a monstrous $132.7 million in its first weekend of release.
Gods of Egypt on the other hand struggled on its opening weekend with a lousy $14 million. That stat looks even worse when viewing it in light of its excessively big budget of $140 million. To put that in perspective for you, Deadpool cost $58 million to make and doubled its spending in the first weekend. Gods of Egypt lost approximately $126 million in the same time. We can be certain of one thing: that person who predicted Gods of Egypt would second Deadpool is definitely out of a job. But on the upside, Lionsgate did save quite a bit of money by shooting in Australia, protecting itself from an even more depressing loss through a 46% production incentive from the Australian government. Still, tens of millions of dollars down the drain.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Unlike many other films on this list with digits into the hundreds, Paramount Pictures only financed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot for $35 million. And it’s no wonder why. As history confirms, political war comedies are a difficult selling point. This certainly isn’t aided by ineffective trailers emphasising light comedy and very mixed reviews. However, despite such weak marketing material, Paramount did invest heavily into the film’s promotion, with over $13 million spent on TV spots before and after its release, plus millions on print, online, radio, billboard, booking fees and more. The film was pursuing an opening between $10 – $12 million. Although to no surprise, it came in below expectations with $7.5 million in the first week, and a low ball decline to $4.6 million, then $2.8 million in the weeks that followed.
The Chief Executive of Viacom, Philippe Dauman said that the box office failure of both Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Zoolander 2 put the studio $136 million in debt. As it stands today, the films’ combined box office sit at $24.9 million USD. Far from the mark. Far from any mark, except the mark of a hefty cost.