Luke Owen charts some of the box office flops 2016…
Movie screenings were up, but the box office figures for 2016 are down on last year. Granted, we didn’t see a release like Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which grossed $1 billion domestically and $2 billion worldwide), but big titles like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Independence Day: Resurgence and many more just didn’t have the impact experts thought they would. Not that they were flops, of course.
So before we go on, let’s define what makes a flop a ‘flop’. The general rule of thumb is that a movie should make 2.5x its budget worldwide in order to turn a profit as this accounts for extra production costs, marketing costs, international fees, exchange rates and potential studio splits. With that in mind, there is no definitive way to determine if something is a flop. For example, Duncan Jones’s Warcraft had a disastrous run domestically with only $46 million from a $160 million budget, but its worldwide number – pushed mostly by China – gave the film an overall total of $433 million. It made up for domestic loses and – in theory – turned a profit. By comparison, last year saw Adam Sandler’s Pixels deemed a box office flop despite the fact it earned $244 million worldwide from a $88 million budget. Of course not all flops remain flops. John Carter of Mars turned a profit when it hit home video, as did Blade Runner and The Shawshank Redemption. However, there are movies that either don’t make their money back or post loses for studios and that’s what this list is all about.
This is also not a comprehensive list as some of the biggest flops of the year were more or less expected, but below are a few blockbuster releases that failed at the box office in a big way.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Budget: $155 million / Domestic Total: $48 million / Worldwide: $164 million
Working as both a prequel and a sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman (a movie that was talked about more for its behind the scenes drama than what was on screen), The Huntsman: Winter’s War retained a lot of its impressive cast including Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, and added big names like Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt. However some very poor reviews (just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes) and a lack of audience interest meant the film only opened to $19 million, falling second to The Jungle Book in its second week. The film would eventually gross just$48 million domestically and $116 million worldwide, giving it a total that was a fraction more than its large budget. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is not the only example on this list of a studio expecting a sequel to do as well as its predecessor (Snow White and the Huntsman earned just under $400 million worldwide), and should serve as a reminder that you have to make a good film the first time round in order for your audience to return.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Budget: $170 million / Domestic Total: $77 million / Worldwide: $229 million
Speaking of which, Alice Through the Looking Glass is another example of a sequel that didn’t match up to the original. It’s crazy to think that Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland earned an incredible $1 billion at the worldwide box office, while its 2016 follow-up made just $229 million. Was it the time between movies, or did Disney vastly under-estimate just how much people cared about the adventures of Alice? It opened to $26 million behind X-Men: Apocalypse and poor word of mouth meant it only earned $77 million when all was said and done. Although Disney had a fantastic year at the box office earning $7 billion, Alice Through the Looking Glass became its third straight Memorial Day Weekend flop after Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Tomorrowland. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney posted a loss of around $65 million from the film’s release, so its likely we won’t be returning to the live-action Wonderland any time soon.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Budget: $110 million / Domestic Total: $66 million / Worldwide: $179 million
The law of diminishing returns continues with The Divergent Series: Allegiant, a series which saw a drastic drop in earnings compared to the films that came before it. Divergent earned $288 million, while its sequel – The Divergent Series: Insurgent – brought home $297 million (although the film did worse domestically than Divergent). So how did The Divergent Series: Allegiant lose $120 million worth of revenue? Well, the poor reviews probably didn’t help but many blame Lionsgate’s decision to follow the path laid by Harry Potter and The Hunger Games by needlessly splitting the final book into two films. This poor box office performance has left the series in tatters. First it was announced that the budget for The Divergent Series: Ascendant had been slashed, and then scrapped the sequel in favour of a TV movie that could create a series spin-off (which its lead star has no interest in). Whatever the case, The Divergent Series: Allegiant was Lionsgate’s second biggest loss of 2016 behind Gods of Egypt. Speaking of which…
Gods of Egypt
Budget: $140 million / Domestic Total: $31 million / Worldwide: $150 million
Oof. Gods of Egypt was a victim of bad publicity as it was – once again – a movie set in Egypt with an all-white cast. You’d think after the dozens of attempts to do this, studios and directors would learn. But Lionsgate and Alex Poyas are clearly not among them. It didn’t help that a slew of bad reviews came out before the film’s release, leading to a rather dismal $14 million opening weekend putting it behind Deadpool in its third week. The clear baiting for a sequel seems pointless in hindsight, as the film’s $150 million worldwide performance is the worst loss for Lionsgate all year. On the bad reviews, director Poyas called critics, “diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass”, who were “trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus. I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality says is good or bad.”
Budget: $100 million / Domestic Total: $26 million / Worldwide: $94 million
Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea? Prior to the film’s release The Hollywood Reporter called Ben-Hur the “most predictable miss/catastrophe” of 2016 and they were completely right. With a budget of $100 million, the blockbuster remake of one of cinema’s biggest classics opened to just $11 million. That put it sixth behind fellow newcomers Kubo and the Two Strings and War Dogs as well as the remake of Pete’s Dragon, Sausage Party and Suicide Squad. Why did MGM fund 80% million of a swords and sandals epic – a genre that has seen a slew of terrible box office performers – with no star power and little marketing? Ben-Hur was labeled as the flop of the summer, and rival studios reported that the film’s loses were between $100 and $120 million.
Budget: $3.5 million / Domestic Total: $615,000 / Worldwide: N/A
You would think that a film with one of the stars of the biggest show on TV accompanied with strong word of mouth and some heavy podcast marketing would recuperate its small $3.5 million. Well, you would think wrong. Starring The Big Bang Theory‘s Melissa Rauch (who also co-wrote the movie), The Bronze is officially one of the biggest flops of all-time. Opening on over 1,160 screens, it earned a pitiful $421,ooo. Overall, the film brought home $615,000 and didn’t get an international release. It was actually supposed to be released in July 2015 and was then pushed back to October before finally getting released in 2016 after Sony Classics acquired the distribution rights from the now bankrupt Relativity Media. See, even the smaller budget movies can struggle.
Budget: $140 million / Domestic Total: $55 million / Worldwide: $178 million
You may look at that $178 million and think The BFG didn’t do as bad as many claim, but the film is one worst performing movies of Steven Spielberg’s career. Think about that. The film struggled on its opening weekend going against animated juggernaut Finding Dory and couldn’t find legs. Earning just $55 million domestically, Disney’s distribution chief David Hollis noted, “we’re going to be reliant in a lot of ways on international [audiences].” Well, even they didn’t really turn out in their droves. In the U.K, where the film is arguably best known, The BFG opened to $6.8 million and the film earned $178 million in total. The Hollywood Reporter noted that The BFG would have financial loses of $90 to $100 million.
Click next to see more box office flops of 2016…