This week, Neil Calloway looks at the least profitable films of the year…
Earlier this week, Forbes magazine, usually interested in listing the world’s richest people, released the details of the least profitable films of 2016. It’s not a good year for some big names in film. This dip in box office can be put down, in part at least, to events like the Olympics, and the US Presidential election; people staying at home to watch real drama rather than fictional ones on the big screen.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the films on the list, only making $16.4 million on a $28 million budget, and it’s easy to see why it was a flop; it’s a comic book or an Saturday Night live sketch; only the most ardent Austenite or Zombiphile is interested in seeing a feature length film about it. The book sold well, but was it bought by people who loved it, or as presents for people you weren’t sure what to get for Christmas?
Some of the films named – like Oliver Stone’s biopic Snowden – haven’t been released in the UK yet, and one imagines a film dealing with that subject matter might do better overseas than it did in the States, where such a political film may have got lost in the run up to the election, but it’s still not a good return to make less than $35 million on a $40 million budget.
You also have to look at the type of films highlighted as flops; they aren’t megabudget franchises, but they aren’t low budget indie movies; they contain enough locations, or special effects, or stars that demand a large fee to push their budgets up above $20 million mark, making it harder to recoup the budget if the film turns out to be a dud.
In reality, these films might just about make their money back when the TV/streaming/DVD rights have been sold; cinema box office is fast becoming a bad measure of a film’s success. 100 Streets, starring Idris Elba and Gemma Arterton, was widely ridiculed for only making £245 on its opening weekend in Britain, neglecting the fact that the film was also released on demand at the same time; its limited cinema release only served as promotion for its release on streaming services.
Other films on the list obviously didn’t do well because they are not suited for cinema releases; Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ($35 million budget, $24.9 million box office) is a prime example of this. A Tina Fey comedy set in Afghanistan is not the sort of film you’d go and see at the cinema, but is exactly the kind of movie you’d catch on Netflix.
Another factor is that some films just aren’t going to be huge, international successes; how do you market a film like Grimsby ($28.7 million at the box office against a $35 million budget) in Missoula, Montana? Changing the name to The Brothers Grimsby isn’t enough.
Films should no longer be judged on their box office; in a world where we’re as likely to stream or download a movie, it’s not a good a good marker for the success or otherwise of a film.
Finally, given that both The Free State of Jones and Keeping Up With the Joneses are among the least profitable movies this year, you probably shouldn’t put “Jones” in the title of your film.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.