2013 Movies: The 10 Riskiest Box Office Bets

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:28 pm, This is a list post.

2013 Movies: The 10 Riskiest Box Office Bets

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger Hollywood would like for all their films to succeed both financially and critically, but the harsh reality is few films make it into the black. Some films are such risky prospects that we often wonder why the studios chose to invest so much money in them; example: in 2012 Disney invested $250 million in John Carter but the film only earned $73 million domestically - high risk, low reward.We ran down the list of over 130 movies releasing in 2013 and picked ten that we thought are the Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2013. These are not films we think are going to fail, just ones we think have the most to overcome in order to be successful.The list is in chronological order of release date, and along with the estimated budgets of each film, we've broken down our reasons for placing it on this list.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner in Hansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersOpens: Jan 25thBudget: $60 MillionJANUARY RELEASE - First off, unless your film is titled Zero Dark Thirty, having it open in January is almost always an omen that a film has the potential to underperform. Even the most “successful” January films over the last ten years only averaged $86 million at the box office, so Paramount will need a strong showing from Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to recoup its costs."R" RATING - Making an animated film based on children's stories can usually lead to financial success - but making a more horror/action-oriented film from a child's tale is always a risky move since the potential audience is immediately limited.CAMPY TONE - It's going to be difficult for audiences to take a rated "R" film seriously when its look, style and tone scream over-the-top camp.

Movie 43

Justin Long and Jason Sudeikis in Movie 43 Opens: Jan 25th Budget: UnknownTOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN - Besides opening in the "movie death-sentence" month of January, Movie 43 has a mind-boggling amount of major Hollywood talent attached to it - and that may not be a good thing. The film has 11 directors and 15 writers, all telling 12 different stories, tossed together in a sort of sketch comedy.PRODUCTION DELAYS - Director/producer Peter Farrelly started this project back in March of 2010, but with so many popular actors and directors like Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine), Emma Stone (Gangster Squad) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) attached, production would sometimes shut down for months waiting on talent availability. Massive delays during filming tend to result in a poorly made film, so Movie 43 is definitely fighting an uphill battle.

Oz: The Great and Powerful

James Franco in Oz: The Great and Powerful Opens: March 8th Budget: $200 MillionUNCALLED FOR PREQUEL - The last time James Franco was in a prequel that no one asked for (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), it turned out well for all parties involved. However, a 45-year-old sci-fi film is a far cry from a 74-year-old classic musical. Producing a modern prequel for a popular and beloved classic like The Wizard of Oz has the potential for ugly critical and financial repercussions.CHANGING THE STORY - To make Oz the Great and Powerful, director Sam Raimi once again had to take liberties with a well-known story, like he did in Spider-Man. Because the original Oz remains popular with audiences of all generations, viewers will watch expecting to see something familiar. If they see something they feel is an extreme departure from the source material, they could rebuff the film and it would be sunk before the midnight showings even finish. The last thing Disney wants is this movie to be the John Carter of 2013.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson in G.I. Joe: Retaliation Opening: March 29th Budget: $185 MillionREWRITES, RE-SHOOTS & RELEASE DELAYS (OH MY!) – After test screenings of G.I. Joe: Retaliation received very bad scores, Paramount addressed the problem with script rewrites and scene re-shoots. They also pushed the release date back eight months to post-convert the film to 3D and add in more scenes with Channing Tatum. That’s like trying to make a cake taste better after it's already come out of the oven - all you can really do is add more frosting.TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE - The first film suffered from too much CGI, an unneeded love story, unfunny humor and overall weak casting. Judging by the trailers, the second film may have fixed those flaws by using more practical effects and bringing in proven action stars like Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. All those changes are good; however, the franchise may have a hard time reinventing itself for an audience that grows more skeptical (and weary) of movies based on toys and games.

The Hangover III

Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha in The Hangover III Opening: May 24th Budget: $110 MillionFORMULA CHANGE - Director Todd Phillips struck summer gold in 2009 with The Hangover and while The Hangover II was a financial success, it was generally panned by audiences and critics alike for being too much like the first film. This time around Phillips is changing the formula for The Hangover III - no weddings, no bachelor parties - with a rumored story involving the Wolfpack breaking Alan (Zach Galifianakis) out of a mental hospital. A change in formula at this late date seems like a risky move to us, because even though the second film was raked over the critical coals, it still managed to pack theaters.HUNGOVER AUDIENCE - Many fans of the franchise simply didn't want to believe the bad press and reviews surrounding the second film and watched it anyway - only to leave theaters shaking their heads. There is a good chance that because the second film was so disappointing audiences might take the "wait and see" approach to the third film, which could mean significantly lower and disappointing box office numbers for the studio.

Man of Steel

Henry Cavill in Man of Steel Opens: June 14th Budget: $175 MillionBIG SHOULDERS - Superman may be the strongest person on planet Earth, but bearing the weight of starting a shared movie universe for DC Comics alone may be too much - even for him. Man of Steel wasn't supposed to kickoff the Justice League franchise, but the success of Marvel's The Avengers is making WB scramble. Since the script was (re)written over a year ago, any cameos of Batman or Wonder Woman showing up would be completely shoehorned in - which could hurt the overall shared-universe story.HOT & COLD - WB really only has two "go-to" DC characters for movies - Batman and Superman (we still don't acknowledge Green Lantern) - and of those, only Batman has enjoyed any success lately. So to keep the Superman franchise alive, director Zack Snyder will need to produce a 300-style hit and not a Sucker Punch-style letdown. Also, Snyder will need his relatively unknown leading man, Henry Cavill, to turn in a strong, convincing performance as Clark Kent/Superman.

World War Z

Brad Pitt in World War Z Opens: June 21st Budget: $150 MillionDELAY OF THE LIVING DEAD - The zombpocalypse movie World War Z - based on Max Brook's famous novel - has received so much delay that at one point the production was in danger of being shut down. Adding to the delay is the fact that four writers have handled the script - J. Michael Straczynski, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard. Then, seven months before the film was to release, Paramount moved the opening date back six months to allow for an extensive seven-week long re-shoot.UNCONVENTIONAL ZOMBIES - With very few exceptions, zombies in films have always been depicted the exact same way - unorganized, slow moving, bloodthirsty, relentless and dumb. This movie looks to turn that generally accepted mythos on its ear by making the zombies super quick and ultra-organized (similar to ants). Finally, with the advances in practical zombie effects in shows like The Walking Dead, choosing to go with all CGI zombies is a dubious decision, at best.

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger Opens: July 3rd Budget: $250 MillionTV SHOW MOVIES FAIL - There have been over a hundred TV show-based movies and only a handful of them have been financially successful; yet, every year a new TV show-based movie hits theaters. Hollywood just keeps throwing money at these fruitless endeavors hoping that they will turn out to be the next Star Trek or Mission Impossible and not Dudley Do-Right or McHale's Navy. If we kept doing something with a success rate of 5% we'd stop investing any money - let alone 250 million dollars.WHITE MAN CASTING - Hollywood seems to have a problem casting ethnic characters with well,...ethnic actors. Disney cast Johnny Depp as Tonto - The Lone Ranger's faithful companion – a move that obviously made to help draw in audiences. Nothing against Depp, but he is only partly (very partly) Native American. With plenty of great Native American actors around to portray the character made famous by Jay Silverheels, we wonder if going this route is something audiences may ultimately reject?

Pacific Rim

Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba in Pacific Rim Opens: July 12th Budget: $200 MillionSTUDIO MEDDLING - Guillermo del Toro has a fantastic eye for creating unique monsters then using them to produce great sci-fi/horror films. The man is a genius at what he does and studios should trust him to continuously deliver top-notch films, but apparently Warner Bros doesn't have faith that Pacific Rim will recoup its blockbuster-size budget without the help of 3D. WB pressed ahead with the 3D conversion even though del Toro said the format wouldn't work for his film. Audiences are slowly growing tired of post-converted 3D films, choosing to watch 2D versions of movies and spending the few extra bucks only on films shot in native 3D.AUDIENCE EXPECATIONS - Unsurprisingly, Pacific Rim is one of our Most Anticipated Movies of 2013 but we're fanboys - what will the general movie-going audience think? Since the success of Transformers, people may go in expecting all robots to have the same quick movements during fight scenes, but the Jaegers in PR will move very slow in comparison. If audiences feel the "stars" of the movie don't live up to expectations, then this flick could be doomed, financially.


Oldboy RemakeOpens: October 11th Budget: UnknownCONTROVERSIAL TOPICS - The original South Korean thriller Oldboy directed by Park Chan-wook is a hard  R-rated film filled with ultra-bloody violence and some stomach-wrenching twists. Director Spike Lee is not a stranger to controversial topics, but he may need to use kid gloves handling this narrative. Hollywood usually defuses this type of situation with humor, but this dark story of vengeance is so disturbing that humor may not be enough to settle mainstream American audiences.HARD SELL - Hollywood has been remaking Asian films for American audiences for decades. Sometimes they score hits like The Departed or The Magnificent Seven but more often they strike out with films like The Eye or The Grudge. American audiences can be a fickle group to please, so determining exactly which remakes they will flock to is tough. But the key to success is the same as it's always been - a great story.

2013 Movies: The 10 Riskiest Box Office Bets

James Franco in Oz: The Great and Powerful We're not hoping, or even suggesting, that any of these films will be utter failures - but it's clear that Hollywood needs its films to overcome several potential obstacles - story, casting, subject matter - to see a profit from their (sometimes obscenely) large investments.Only time will tell if these high risk cinematic bets will pay off for all studios involved, but with dozens of films touting $150-plus million budgets, this year they're all going to need good showings just to break even.What films do you think present the biggest box office risk of 2013 and why?Follow me on Twitter - @MoviePaul
TAGS: gi joe 2, hansel and gretel witch hunters, movie 43, oldboy, pacific rim, superman man of steel, the great and powerful oz, the hangover 3, the lone ranger, world war z


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  1. I will be seeing Pacific Rim and Oz

  2. Oz most certainly has the potential for a prequel, considering there were many other stories that L. Frank Baum developed before the original movie even existed. I don’t think he’d mind if they did a story entirely focused on the “Wizard”, considering that apparently no one wonders how he got there and how no one found out he was a fraud.

  3. The Lone Ranger – massive, Wild Wild West turkey in the making. Depp to come back with yet another Pirates movie.

    • $250 million on a turd like the lone ranger? It’s shot in a friggin desert.

      This will be one steaming pile of crap.

    • An absolute disappointment, and a slap in the face to a movie that, if done well, could really pay respect to a genre in Westerns that deserves respect. The idea of Depp as The Lone Ranger, or even the Villain, is more acceptable then him as Tonto. Just stupid.

      • I agree. Lone Ranger I see as being a major letdown

  4. Johnny Depp has a good amount of Cherokee indian in him. I know. I had to do a project on him in high school.

    • I was just about to say that. In fact, he is an honorary member of Cherokee Indian Tribe that he studied for this role.

      • You are correct – I’ve reflected this in the post. [EDITOR]

    • @Symbiote and Darth – Thanks guys. I glanced briefly at his bio and didn’t do a full ancestral background check. I appreciate the clarification.

      Paul Young

  5. I totally agree with this article concerning The Lone Ranger. It’s 2013. You mean they could not find one native American to play the part? ONE!

    • Your a studio exec. You have a choice to make in casting this role.

      A) You could get an relatively unknown actor who fully matches the ethnicity of the character.


      B)You can have Johnny Depp. A man who is an acknowelege accomplished actor. A man who draws in an audience simply by being in the movie. A man who has previous work with the production team of this movie produced some of the popular movies in the past decade.

      You get one chance at this and if it is A, you now know why your not a studio exec.

        • @Bryant – Black is right. Adding Depp to a project doesn’t mean it will be a bonafide hit. Dark Shadows last year is proof of that.


        • k(Black) From the stand point of a producer, I don’t think your reasoning is necessarily wrong. But the reason Depp is Tonto is because Depp is the one who wanted to make the movie. Therefore, it never was an issue of casting or not casting an unknown native American. Either Depp is Tonto or there would be no Lone Ranger movie at all.

          • I guess that’s one way of making sure you’re in the movie. Produce it.

  6. Oz will either be a huge smash hit like Alice in Wonderland, or a complete bomb like John Carter. Right now I am leaning towards bomb, because I just don’t think Franco has enough appeal to bring in huge numbers, unlike Johnny Depp in Alice.

  7. i have a feeling that gi joe will be the biggest flop altho im still gonna see it

    • ^this. but not in the theaters.

  8. HEY YOU FORGOT AFTER EARTH!!!!!!!?????????? That movie looks like a hit or miss as well!
    Personally I believe Man of Steel and Pacific Rim to be hits, the rest not so much especially Lone Ranger and Oz they look like failures to me IMHO!

    • completely agreee on the Superman one. Never heard of Pacific Rim, must be an american thing.

      • @pencil pacific rim is the one about big robots fighting monsters to save the planet or whatever, it looks pretty cool.

      • Oh trust me it looks awesome! It’s GIANT ROBOTS VS GIANT MONSTERS!! YOU’LL LOVE IT!

      • @Pencil

        Pacific Rim “must be an American thing”?

        I’m English, living in England and have been looking forward to this movie since I first saw it written about on Screen Rant in 2012.

        Plus, giant robots fighting giant monsters is more of a Japanese thing anyway.

  9. You realize that The Lone Ranger has much more history than just being a TV show, right? It started out as a radio drama, was made into two early film serials and several novels, not to mention comic books. The TV show itself was turned into two very good feature films in the 1950s.

    • I recently saw one of the 1950′s Lone Ranger films, I quite enjoyed it. The Lone Ranger is a timeless story, adding Depp as a comedic element could work out well. At least in Movie Trailer he kinda came off as comedic, my daughter and I both laughed. She is 18 and remarked she would be excited to see it so I think that bodes well for movie.

  10. I think Oz will do great, theres alot of hype for that one. Audiences will show up to see it like they did for Alice. Lone Ranger is riskier, its more John Carter-esque than Oz. I’m thinking it will bomb. I’ll prbly see it tho cuz I’m curious.

    I think Man of Steel will be great but I totally forgot they’ll be shoe-horning in the DC universe stuff. hopefully that doesn’t ruin it :(

  11. I believe there was an 80′s lone ranger movie as well. I saw Django and there was a trailer for TLR. It looked ok. Im excited for supes. Pac rim should be ok. Oz could be hit or miss… Im probably gonna check it out though.

  12. Surprised Superman was on the list after seeing the trailer. I think the movie will do fine.

  13. Oz the Great and Powerful is the only one of these films i know i wont see.

    I may pass up Hansel and Gretel and Hangover 3, depending on reviews and if i feel like moving those weekend.

    Im gonna try to see Movie 43 and World War z, but if i miss them i wont be too heart broken.

    I still can’t get a read on Oldboy and Lone Ranger. Still too early on those for me.

    And Pacific Rim, Superman and GI Joe, i will definately be seeing

  14. I think Oz could be the start of a series of Oz movies – including a reimaging of the Wizard of Oz. I’d actually like to see them do this but steer away from trying to remake the 1930′s film but instead do a non-musical take more closely based on the books.

    GI Joe Retiliation will probably flop but I’ll probably like it.

    I want The Lone Ranger to be good but I’m afraid that Depp is actually going to be more a hindrance than an asset in this.

    • actually @fdbryant3 it was Alice in Wonderland that started a series of reimaginings of old classics. Its success was what led to Oz, Maleficient, and the Cinderella live action thing they’re doing.

    • @fdbryant, i agree on doing new,non-musical versions on the oz stories.

  15. I’ll see everything except Hangover III and Oldboy at theater. Hangover is movie rental for me, and Oldboy I really dont care because there was nothing wrong with the original which was brilliant IMO.

    Most looking forward to Man of Steel!

  16. WWZ looks bad, I’m not having the CGI zombies. Plus four writers and 7 weeks of reshoots does not bode well for the film. Lone Ranger I am hoping is going to be a surprise his like the Original Pirates of theCaribbean. I was perusing the site last night and I was surprised at all the hate that Pacific Rim is getting. Maybe it’s because people are tired of Giant Robot movies but I think it looks great

  17. With Christopher Nolan producing Man of Steel and that awesome trailer, the film will make big bucks – no doubt about it. I’m surprised to see it on the list, it’s like the throw in.
    If any film has potential box office bomb it’s After Earth. The fact they banked the trailer on Will Smith and didn’t attach Shylamahan’s name at all to the trailer won’t help one bit. People are aware who the film is by, and thus it has extraodinarily high risk of bombing.

  18. Normally I’m the kind of guy who will watch just about anything before rendering judgement, but I have to say, this Hansel and Gretel flick had me laughing pretty hysterically (at the absurdity of the human condition) just on the ridiculousness of the title/concept alone. I’m not saying it can’t be good, only that, at face value, it screams “Warning: This Film Is Painfully Bad!” Seriously, even “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has far greater topic/title appeal.

  19. I honestly feel like out of Raimi’s two movies being released this year, the one he’s directing will be the bomb and the one he’s producing will be a huge success despite its limited audience.

  20. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounded cool. It still flopped. How on earth could Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters possibly do better?

    • Define “cool”

      • Well, ‘cool’ to me meant it had a weird and seemingly at-odds concept (Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter) that had the ‘potential’ to work (unfortunately it did not). Not everyone will agree, but I thought, hey, maybe they could actually make the idea that a former POTUS was secretly killing vampires plausible enough to entertain for a couple of hours?

        But with Hansel and Gretel…I don’t really care. It seems just like they wanted to make a ‘Witch Hunters’ movie and tacked on ‘Hansel and Gretel’ at the front to give it some name recognition. Granted the Lincoln film may have done the same, but there was reason to assume it might have potential (at least to me).

        • @Nick

          I hear ya. Personally, whenever I would see commercials or trailers for AL:VH, I would groan. It just sounded like such a stupid concept that made absolutely no sense. If anything, Hansel and Gretel is a fictional story, so it’s not as strange to add on some fantastical gory badass hunting, IMO.

  21. Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan

  22. I agree with you with World War Z. Heard about it someone was telling me there is going to be a new Zombie movie then the trailer was on tv a few days later and I immediately thought they are just like ants. Never read the novel so i dont know if thats how they are supposed to be or not. Im just not a fan of fast intelligent zombies but thats just me thinking if there was ever actually going to be a Zombie Apocalypse i would want them to be slow where i have a chance to get away

    • They are not. If I recall correctly, they are the George Romero type zombies.

    • Also, it’s extremely loosely based on the book. Read that as only sharing the name. Read the book. It’s good.

  23. I’ll go with Lone Ranger & Oz being the flops… Even with good reviews I doubt I’d get the interest to see either…

    • If you’re right then that would be 3 huge flops in 2 years for Disney (along w/John Carter, of course)

  24. Hangover III comment – “Many fans of the franchise simply didn’t want to believe the bad press and reviews surrounding the second film and watched it anyway – only to leave theaters shaking their heads.” .. huh?… Who left disappointed from the Hangover part 2???

    Everyone I know said that yes it was like the original, but it was so funny in itself that it basically was as funny as the original especially since they even acknowledge it when on the phone they say “We did it again…” Even the side stories were funny as hell!!.. So I don’t know where you get your quotes from but it must not be from the actual moviegoers..

    • Hangover II was horrible. Where the original was funny, the sequel came off as unnecessarily harsh and crude. Really, did the Asian kid need to lose a finger?

  25. “Man Of Steel” has a lot of pressure on it. If it provides only a moderate hit, say makes it’s money back but little else, or outright flops the whole launch of the Justice League is thrown in doubt. With “Green Lantern” being a miss and Zach Snyder’s last two efforts being less then stellar, and how high the bar has been set for a successful super hero movie, this is not the sure thing that a lot of people are expecting. I am still betting on successful movie, but not a sure thing.

    Pacific Rim will be fine if marketed correctly. I cannot remember laughing so hard at a movie since “Animal House” as I did at “Hangover”, but a third one?? REALLY? “Oz” is being package well, I think it will do well.

    Flops: “GI Joe”, “Hanzel and Gretal”, and “World War Z”, although I might give “WWZ” a shot. I want to like it…..

  26. I think The Lone Ranger is definitely the biggest risk considering its ginormous budget. I don’t think it’ll flop but I don’t see it earning back it’s budget domestically. I’m still interested in it though. :)

  27. What in the heck did they spend all that money on for Lone Ranger? $250 million for a western? More than Man of Steel or Oz? Wow. I would like to see ethnically-appropriate actors, but Johnny Depp honestly looks almost vaguely Native American, and of course, he is the star power. Which is probably the biggest reason that most people might see the film. As far as Pacific Rim, at a glance it doesn’t sound all that compelling. Is it going to be like Battleship, or Monsters vs Aliens? Del Toro is an interesting director, though.

  28. “If we kept doing something with a success rate of 5%, we’d stop investing any money – let alone 250 million dollars.” HAHA so true. Gotta love Hollywood logic.

    Also, I love the GI Joe cake metaphor.