And that's what we're here to highlight in this particular feature. We're going to have us a look-see at the year's most spectacular failures. Why? Because just like the rest of humanity, we're not above rubbernecking at a colossal train wreck from time to time.
We'll give you the rundown on the year's five biggest, most astounding failures, and also list off a few special cases that, while maybe not the insane money pits that the those on the main list were, still stuck out among the pack as sheer, unadulterated tragedy. Now just sit back, relax, and let the failure soak in.
Five Special Achievements in Financial Failure
Oh poor, sweet MacGruber. This is one of those cases where, while the actual net profit loss wasn't terribly high, the ticket sale numbers simply don't tell the whole story. MacGruber cost a mere $10 million to make, which is exceptionally low for a wide-released summer movie. Granted, Saturday Night Live-produced films do have a somewhat spotty track record, but there is no way in hell anyone could have predicted that a movie costing a mere $10 million would still fail to even make its basic production budget back. Macgruber missed the mark by a desperately sad $750,000. That's some Ladies Man type business right there.
Scott Pilgrim is an interesting case. The reported budget of this thing was around $60 million. Sadly, ticket sales did not manage to catch up to that number, as it posted a final number around $47.2 million. It's a loss, and a significant one, but what makes it potentially a great deal more tragic is that sticky matter of marketing. Scott Pilgrim had one of the most massive marketing campaigns of any movie this year, and while marketing budgets are never posted within production budgets, it's safe to assume that the studio spent a hell of a lot more than $60 million promoting this thing. So while we'll never know exactly how much Scott Pilgrim lost, one can safely assume it's quite a bit more than Blu-ray sales are expected to cover. Epic fail.
This is a tricky case, given that the movie's only been out for two weekends at this point, but with a currently posted intake of around $15 million at this juncture, it seems there isn't a snowball's chance in hell of this movie making back its $120 million budget. And that's the real curiosity here: Why the hell did a completely bland-looking romantic comedy cost this much to make? Granted, stars like Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson will cost you a bit in salaries (even if Nicholson does only show up for like a handful of minutes), but that hardly seems enough to send this over the $100 million mark. There are quotes floating around about director James L. Brooks' methodology being a big part of it. He is described as a "methodical" filmmaker, which I believe translates to "slow and inefficient." Whatever the case, this is maybe one of those cases where the studio number crunchers maybe ought to have put the screws to the director a bit, and maybe they wouldn't be in this predicament.
This is a real sad one, as by all accounts, this was a pretty great movie from a great director. Mark Romanek hasn't made a movie in over seven years, so it blows to see his first project back take such a nosedive. The budget for this movie was only around $15 million, but few went to see it, with only around $2.5 million in ticket sales estimated. The movie certainly wasn't the easiest sell in the world, as the slightly confusing trailers and TV spots clearly showed, and sadly this never made it beyond a handful of screens in limited release. Some movies just seem doomed to fail from the beginning, it seems, and sadly this appears to have been one of those cases.
For a long time the mystery surrounding I'm Still Here was whether or not any of it was real. Not long after the film's release, director Casey Affleck let it be known that his documentary about the supposed mental breakdown of fellow actor and brother-in-law, Joaquin Phoenix, was indeed a Kaufmanesque prank. I'm not sure if that quick admission was out of some manner of desperation, as the movie opened extremely soft for the amount of media hype it had garnered up to that point. Regardless, it didn't work. I'm Still Here only managed to crack half a million dollars at the box office, which ultimately led to a new mystery: Exactly how massive of a failure was this?
Budget numbers for this movie have never been posted, so we don't know what the precise cost to the studio was. However, we do have some idea about the personal costs involved. Affleck has gone on record saying that taking the year-and-a-half away from acting put a significant strain on him financially, to the point where he had to take a break from filming to do The Killer Inside Me and get some cash. Many also wondered aloud if Phoenix would ever work again once the prank was revealed--so far it seems like he'll be alright. But in the end, one can't help but wonder if any of the stress, any of the financial misery, any of this at all, was worth it.
The Five Biggest Bombs of 2010
5. Jonah HexBudget: $47 million
Final Take: $10.9 million
Net Loss: -76.8%
Jonah Hex never really had a chance, it seems. Warner Bros. was extremely late in making any efforts to promote this comic-book-based western action movie, possibly because it was an abominable mess. Hard to get a marketing campaign going when you're still trying to feverishly edit this junk into something functionally watchable right up until the 11th hour. You can't blame the bad reviews, because lots of poorly reviewed movies did just fine this year. I guess you could blame the competition, since this did go up against the Pixar juggernaut, Toy Story 3, but you'd hope for a little bit more of a divergent audience, considering the subject matter. Let's just blame everyone involved and pretend this disaster never happened, OK?
Current Take: $8.3 millionNet Loss: -81.3%
While The Warrior's Way is still technically sitting around in theaters, like rotting fruit no one wants to pick up to throw away, this movie is dropping by double digits in the rankings from week to week, and seems unlikely to ever crack $9 million in profits. This is a case where you absolutely cannot blame competition, as there was no competition. Warrior's Way was the only new wide release its opening weekend, and while it did still have the likes of Harry Potter and Tangled to contend with, its incredibly meager 8th place debut was shockingly low for a movie that wasn't completely panned by critics (excepting Rorie, who hated it), and featured ninjas fighting cowboys--a proven formula if there ever was one. I'll just go ahead and unfairly blame this on Kate Bosworth, who was also the worst part of Superman Returns. In the words of the great western philosophers Bell, Biv and DeVoe, that girl is poison.
3. Middle MenBudget: $20 million
Final Take: $733,447
Net Loss: -96.3%
Do you even remember this movie? Of course you don't, because you didn't see it. No one did. This Luke Wilson-fronted dramatic biopic of the men who helped turn Internet porn into a thing never saw a full-wide release, but it did make it into a larger-than-average number of theaters for a limited release, thanks to the whole AMC Independent deal. So there were major theaters you could find this movie in--people just chose not to. The movie never looked especially great (our review would seem to back up that assertion), but this seems like one of those cases where too little marketing, and zero word of mouth just sunk this thing straight to the bottom.
2. Love RanchBudget: $25 million
Final Take: $137,355
Net Loss: -99.4%
This is why I will never understand the machinations of film production and distribution. You let Taylor Hackford make a $25 million movie about an interesting subject (sex, or, more specifically, prostitution, and the legalization of it), you have stars like Helen Mirren (who, as The Queen and RED have proven, people are more than willing to pay to go to see) and Joe Pesci (in his first acting role in years), and what do you do with this movie but slip it out into a handful of theaters and leave it to die a horrible death? Granted, the scathing reviews lobbed at Love Ranch likely did it no favors, but I am still perplexed how you budget a movie this high, get stars that are, in fact, marketable, and then just give it the ol' careless toss into a few theaters the average filmgoer doesn't even know exist. It's situations like this one where the brains behind it are practically begging to lose a gaggle of money. If someone can teach me the reason why that's OK, then please do.
Current Take: $234,928
Net Loss: -99.7%
No, you're not misreading those numbers. That's a $90 million budget. And worldwide, it has made $234 thousand dollars. I scarcely even know where to begin with this Christmastime fiasco, but let's start with that budget. WHY?!? Why does a, by all accounts, chintzy-looking production of the goddamned Nutcracker that's barely staffed with actors of any worth (let's face it, Elle Fanning is not the Fanning you're looking for, Nathan Lane fell off the relevancy map years ago, and John Turturro ain't exactly packin' 'em into seats these days), cost that much money to make? It certainly wasn't for the 3D presentation, which has been called by those who've seen it as some of the worst 3D ever. On top of all of that, the movie never made it beyond 100-some-odd screens in North America, and doesn't seem to have exactly torn it up internationally, either.
It's definitely apparent that the movie is some kind of serious awful. It's bad enough that Roger Ebert recently posted a letter he received from a grandmother who took her kids to see it, and felt the need to recount blow-by-blow how completely atrocious it was. There's just something about this movie that feels really...fishy. Maybe it's the fact that it was co-produced by studios in the UK and Hungary. The Hungarian film industry ain't exactly a boomin' these days, so I'm just going to make a baseless statement and say that this has to be some kind of Hungarian mob scam. The movie was always supposed to lose money, and those budget numbers are wildly inflated as the result of massive amounts of money laundering. There's just no other explanation I can grasp onto for how any of this happened.
And that about does it folks. By all means, comment away on these failures, and how you feel about them, as well as any other failures we didn't get to here. Let's all rubberneck together!