Walt Disney Studios is having a tough year. With the $250 million dollar bomb called The Lone Ranger sitting on its books, that is a lot of red ink to sort through. Now, you could look on the bright side and say that the movie grossed $230 million worldwide. And sure, that mitigates some of the loss, but once marketing, and pony tours, and ranch visits for the press and everything else is accounted for, you're still looking at a write-down loss of over $100 million dollars.
In a day and age when the stock market tanks simply because of what it thinks investors might do, the bean counters at the Mouse House cannot be happy. At all. Sadly, this might not be the only huge flop it has to contend with in coming months.
On August 1st of 2014, it will be releasing Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, this is a Marvel property, so it at least has somewhat of a buffer wedged in front of it. On the surface, people seem to like superhero movies. In fact, all of this Man of Steel 2 business, with the 'should or shouldn't Ben Affleck play Batman' talk, seems to have brought interest in these sorts of films to a fever pitch. However, unlike a lot of other successful superhero movies, the characters in Guardians are not household names. By a long shot. Sure it's got a solid cast with the likes of Zoe Saldana, Benicio Del Toro and John C. Reilly, but none of them guarantees a big opening weekend or a lengthy run. Worst of all, it faces the exact same kind of challenges John Carter did, both marketing and audience wise. The fanboys can scream as loudly and as long as they want about how awesome the Comic-Con footage was. People in middle America don't care about those hazelnuts. John Carter was a substantial flop, and that doesn't bode well for our heroes this time out.
Also, August 2014 is still a year away...
In today's market, movies live and die by what they do during their initial 72 hours of release. Disney is known for releasing films that get people into the theaters. Since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this company has been a veritable cash cow. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but in today's market, with so many factors to contend with (marketing, the internet, weather conditions, scandals, etc.) a great movie can be somewhat successful and still fail miserably at the box office. Marking it as a bomb forever.
With all these factors in mind, and such a storied history behind it, we decided to look at "The Top Five Biggest Disney Flops" of the past few summers. Maybe we can rally around these movies, figure out what went wrong, and save Guardians of the Galaxy from the same sort of fate!
1The Lone Ranger (2013) (Cost $215m)
Domestic: $88m, International: $142m
This movie looked like a sure thing. Johnny Depp teaming up with Gore Verbinski again, the same team behind the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise, successfully launched in 2003? That's a slam dunk, right? The thinking seemed to be that, perhaps, they could do for the western what they had done for the pirate movie (each one of those grossed a billion or close to it, right?). Sadly this was not to be the case, as The Lone Ranger movie never caught on with audiences. Making only $87 million in the United States it fared a bit better overseas with a haul of $142 million. Let us not forget that perhaps a lot of this films "sins" can be glossed over with a healthy home video run. That market may be fragmented, but with the proliferation of Smart TVs and home theater systems, it stands to reason that The Lone Ranger could make back a bit more coin. The big question is how much can it afford to spend more money in order to do so? The simple fact of the matter is, people aren't in the mood for Westerns. Its a niche market better served by low budget affairs. Like Disney's 2003 classic Open Range.
2John Carter (2012) (Cost $250m)
Domestic: $73m, International: $209m
What in the world were the powers that be thinking when they gifted a $250 million dollar film to Taylor Kitsch? As I write this, I also realize I am contradicting myself, because The Lone Ranger had one of the most bankable actors on the planet and it failed to do anything as well. Like Ranger, it was made for $250 million. However, worldwide it grossed $282 million. The basic problem with this film seems to be that audiences were asked to care about something they had little reference to or interest in. Sure, it's based on a book, but what isn't nowadays. And the book in question was really old. Teens haven't read it, no matter how hard that makes you older sci-fi guys cry. And the title changing and rearranging was confusing. 'Who the heck is John Carter?' We can still here people in Arkansas asking each other. Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is, just because something has a preexisting audience, that doesn't mean they'll turn around and tell others to see the movie. Which, in the case of John Carter, wouldn't have helped anyway.
3Prince of Persia (2010) (Cost $200m)
Domestic: $90m, International: $244m
It would be easy to see this $300 million dollar movie (if you factor in production and marketing costs) as being too big for an actor like Jake Gyllenhaal to handle. However, this wasn't the guy's first trip to the rodeo (see Donnie Darko, The Day After Tomorrow, Jarhead, Zodiac, etc.) and he's also a very good actor. So what happened? Perhaps this is simply an example of an audience that follows a video game waiting for it to come to the format they are the most comfortable with... Home video! The movie did pull in $335 million worldwide. It also brought in another $36 million domestically with its Blu-ray and DVD release. So, it would be fair to say, if worldwide home video was factored in, this movie brought in closer to $400 million total. But again, Disney hoped it would do a lot better. While it failed to ignite a franchise, as was the plan, it wasn't a total failure. In fact, looking at these figures now, it seems downright cuckoo that we live in a world where a film can cost this much to make, make more than that back, and have it still be considered a bomb. But it is. We can't change that. Sorry, Jake Gyllenhaal.
4Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010) (Cost $160m)
Domestic: $63m, International: $152m
Nicolas Cage and sorcery certainly seems like a sure thing, right? Wrong. Made for $160 million, this magical tale of a sorcerer (Cage) who takes newbie (Jay Baruchel) under his wing completly failed to connect with viewers and critics alike. It didn't matter that the movie was based on everyone's favorite animated segment from Fantasia, starring Mickey Mouse. While the broom sequence was played out in live action, it certainly didn't make up for Mickey's absence. The marketing budget has been factored in at another $50 million. So...Before any theaters even laced the film through their projectors (or their digital bits through their digital processors), the film was clocking in at $210 million. It's final box office tally, with it's worldwide theatrical run and home video receipts, brings it to a paltry $240. So, essentially, Disney broke even which, when this movie was in the pitching stages, probably wasn't what the corporate brass thought would happen.
5Treasure Planet (2002) (Cost $140m)
Domestic: $38m, International: $71m
Taking the story of Treasure Island and setting it in outer space probably, on paper, seemed like a smart idea. Treasure Island is a story that everybody knows, and if not, they are at least familiar with the Las Vegas hotel. Too bad this bet didn't come close to paying off. With a production budget of $100, all in this movie made $91 million. Once you factor in the marketing costs, Treasure Planet is probably one film that Disney wishes hadn't made the journey. So why did it not do much business at the box office? Aside from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who was yet to be JGL), the biggest names in the cast seem to be David Hyde Pierce and Emma Thompson. While both are fine actors who have been well cast in other projects, they aren't really considered the go-to names when it comes time to open a movie. As for the popularity of Treasure Island not translating into a space movie? Audiences are fickle and in 2002, I don't recall hearing many people clamoring to see a re-imagined version of the this classic novel. It all adds up to a complete lack of interest.
Did we miss any? What other flops would you like us to write about it? Do you ever wonder how these companies keep making films after losing so much money? Let us know!