The inside story of the summer movies that lost a fortune, from Catwoman to The Lone Ranger
We are near the height of the summer movie season right now, and overall it's been a pretty good year for Hollywood. Transformers: Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past have made an absolute fortune, but it's always more fun to talk about the bombs.
Studios are quite willing to spend upwards of $300 million on a movie if it means they might make $1 billion — so when something bellyflops it can hit the ground especially hard. Many of the biggest summer box office disasters have hit during the past two decades. Here's a look at 15 of them, complete with budget and worldwide box office grosses (per BoxOfficeMojo.com).
1. The Lone Ranger (2013)
Budget: $215 million. Box Office: $260 million
For reasons that remain difficult to fathom even a year later, Disney was under the impression that today's kids would flock to a movie based on a character from a 1930s radio show. And with a little prodding from Johnny Depp, they shifted the focus of The Lone Ranger toward his sidekick Tonto and away from the masked man himself. Despite a super aggressive marketing campaign (and even the cover of a certain magazine), The Lone Ranger had a domestic gross of $89 million and a budget of $215 million. It made enough overseas to eek out a tiny profit, though that was probably swallowed up by marketing costs. It also put a severe dent in Johnny Depp's career and pretty much destroyed Armie Hammer.
4. R.I.P.D. (2013)
Budget: $130 million. Box Office: $78 million.
Jeff Bridges is undoubtably one of the greatest actors of his generation, so it remains baffling when he agrees to make the occasional wretched movie — like, say, this a transparent rip-off of Ghostbusters and Men In Black, minus any of the laughs or cleverness. Universal dumped millions into the movie and then refused to even screen it in advance for critics, a clear sign they knew they had a major stinker on their hands. It grossed $78 million worldwide, but with a budget of $130 million and huge marketing costs, a small fortune was pissed away.
9. Gigli (2003)
Budget: $54 million. Box Office: $7 million.
Over the past decade, the word Gigli has become synonymous with hubris, failure and the short-lived cultural phenomenon known as "Bennifer." The film was supposed to bring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's offscreen chemistry onto the big screen, but it wound up sickening everyone, making $7 million off a $54 million budget. Much of that money was spent on their salaries, which managed to be three times more than the movie's total take. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken both had small roles, but they escaped unscathed. Bennifer wasn't so lucky — it split once more into two separate beings not long afterwards.
11. North (1994)
Budget: $40 million. Box Office: $7 million.
Roger Ebert wrote over 6,000 movie reviews during his four decade career, yet one of the most memorable passages comes from the widely-forgotten 1994 Elijah Wood movie North. "I hated this movie," he wrote. "Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Ebert's review has become so infamous that Rob Reiner was even goaded into reading a bit of it during his Friars Club Roast.
The plot involves a boy traveling around the world seeking out new parents. He comes across half of Hollywood (Kathy Bates, Alan Arkin, Jason Alexander, Jon Lovitz, Bruce Willis and even a young Scarlett Johansson), but winds up making one of the worst road movies ever. Few films have ever inspired that much hate — so at least they accomplished something.
13. Battlefield Earth (2000)
Budget: $73 million. Box Office: $30 million.
Whatever you do, don't you dare think that John Travolta willed this insane, unwatchable, ludicrously overblown movie into existence because it happened to be based off a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. That's a mere coincidence; why, Travolta probably wasn't even aware that Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth. He just wanted to make a little movie about humanity's war with aliens in the year 3000 and then everyone just had to get so critical. The studio spent $73 million on Battlefield Earth and it made back just $30 million. Travola was near the height of his comeback around this time, but this disaster set him back quite a ways.