More than 200 movies received wide theatrical releases in 2014 – some (Captain America: The Winter Soldier: $714M) were sure-fire box office winners, a few (Vampire Academy: $15M) were destined for box office infamy, and others (Ride Along: $154M) managed to surprise at the box office.

At the beginning of the year, we picked 13 big-budget films we thought had the greatest financial risk to cover their production and marketing costs. Now that the 2014 movie season is over, we’re going to see how these films (and our predictions) turned out.

NOTE: All of the budget and box office information mentioned in this article is derived from Box Office Mojo and The Numbers. While there’s no hard and fast rule to determine a film’s marketing budget, it’s a widely accepted that, on average, 50% of a film’s production budget should be tacked on to cover marketing costs.  (Ex: If a production budget is $100M, a marketing budget will be about $50M.)

Let’s take a look back at the Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014 and see what was and wasn’t worth the risk.

The Legend of Hercules – Not Worth It

The Legend of Hercules Kellan Lutz1 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $70M

  • Domestic: $19M
  • Foreign: $43M
  • Worldwide: $62M
  • DVD: $12M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 4.2
  • RT: 3%
  • SR: 1.5 Stars

This confused excuse for a swords-and-sandals movie seemingly stood no chance of recouping the studio’s costs back. Even with former Twilight beefcake Kellan Lutz playing the demi-god and action director Renny Harlin at the helm, the film just couldn’t find an audience either domestically or overseas. The best part of the movie was Scott Adkins as the always angry King Amphitryon, but not even he could save this cinematic misstep.

I, Frankenstein – Not Worth It

I Frankenstein Aaron Eckhart1 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $65M

  • Domestic: $19M
  • Foreign: $53M
  • Worldwide: $72M
  • DVD: $12M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 5.2
  • RT: 3%
  • SR: 2 Stars

I, Frankenstein started with an interesting concept – turn a classic monster icon into a superhero – but somewhere between the page and the screen the idea got lost (much like the audience in the third act). Originally, there were some discrepancies as to what the actual budget was for this film. Box Office Mojo and The Numbers – both industry standards in the movie financial world – list the film with a production budget of $65M, but director Stuart Beattie personally told us the budget was set at $36M. For the sake of consistency, we’ll use data provided by BOM/TN – data that doesn’t make things look good for the film. Even accounting for the modest DVD sales, the film would fall woefully short of making back the studio’s investment.

Robocop – Worth It

Robocop 2014 Joel Kinnaman Gary Oldman 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $100M

  • Domestic: $59M
  • Foreign: $185M
  • Worldwide: $243M
  • DVD: $15M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.3
  • RT: 48%
  • SR: 2.5 Stars

There were many factors working against Robocop: It was a remake of a nostalgic ’80s film , it was being released in early February, and it had a budget of $100M. Honestly, we had doubts the film could find box office success, and if its fate had been left in the hands of the domestic audience, it would’ve failed (miserably). However, the foreign audience made its approval heard by nearly tripling the movie’s domestic receipts – turning what could have been an epic meltdown into a highly profitable film.

Pompeii – Not Worth It

Pompeii 2014 Kit Harington dewale Akinnuoye Agbaje 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $100M

  • Domestic: $24M
  • Foreign: $85M
  • Worldwide: $108M
  • DVD: $7M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 5.6
  • RT: 29%
  • SR: 1.2 Stars

On the whole, disaster films generally perform well at the domestic box office. However, Paul W. S. Anderson’s love story wrapped around a historic catastrophic event would ultimately crash and burn, both domestically and overseas. The special effects for Pompeii were quite good (they should be with a 9-figure budget), but audiences clearly decided that blockbuster films with more spectacle than substance belong in theaters during the summer – choosing to re-watch The Lego Movie and Robocop instead.

Need for Speed – Worth It

Need for Speed 2014 Aaron Paul 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $66M

  • Domestic: $44M
  • Foreign: $143M
  • Worldwide: $187M
  • DVD: $12M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.6
  • RT: 22%
  • SR: 2.5 Stars

Typically, video game movies have a hard time finding financial success at the box office (the Resident Evil series notwithstanding). By all accounts, Need for Speed should have crashed and burned – it was longer than it needed to be, had paper-thin characters, and a ridiculous storyline – but thanks to its modest budget and a (super-charged) boost from the foreign markets, it was able to turn quite a nice profit for the studio. Hopefully, the sequel, if it happens, will correct the aforementioned problems.

Noah – Worth It

Noah 2014 Russell Crowe 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $130M

  • Domestic: $101M
  • Foreign: $255M
  • Worldwide: $356M
  • DVD: $21M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.0
  • RT: 77%
  • SR: 4 Stars

Noah was one of two Biblical epics released in 2014 and was our personal long shot to be the financial winner of the two – we were incredibly wrong. Darren Aronofsky’s unique take on the millennia-old Bible story (which included fallen angel rock monsters) wasn’t a hit within religious circles, but audiences across the globe flooded theaters two-by-two to watch it.

Godzilla – Worth It

Goddzilla 2014 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $160M

  • Domestic: $200M
  • Foreign: $308M
  • Worldwide: $508M
  • DVD: $35M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.6
  • RT: 73%
  • SR: 4 Stars

Godzilla was on top of our Most Anticipated Movies of 2014, and while the film had its flaws – too much focus on ancillary characters, not enough screen time for the Big Guy – that wasn’t enough to keep monstrous crowds from showing up at the theaters. The film received a big, impressive marketing push by Legendary at Comic-Con 2013 and across the globe in the months leading up to its release. That strategy seemingly paid off in spades. The movie also made it into our Top Movie Moments of 2014 with Godzilla’s atomic breath kill scene.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Worth It

X Men Days of Future Past Patrick Stewart Bingbing Fan Ian McKellen Hugh Jackman 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $200M

  • Domestic: $234M
  • Foreign: $510M
  • Worldwide:$744M
  • DVD: $41M

Ratings

  • IMDb: 8.1
  • RT: 92%
  • SR: 4.5 Stars

Director Bryan Singer had a whole lot of obstacles to overcome in order to right the X-Men franchise ship. Many thought the franchise’s storyline was in such disarray that it would be near impossible for him to correct everything in one movie. But according to most viewers, he pulled it off. Not only did the movie re-energize the franchise (leaving the door open for the return of characters lost in X-Men 3), it did so in an impressive and entertaining fashion. On top off all that, X-Men: Days of Future Past gave audiences one of the greatest movie moments in 2014 – the Quicksilver kitchen scene.

Jupiter Ascending – Unknown

Jupiter Ascending Channing Tatum2 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $175M

  • Domestic: N/A
  • Foreign: N/A
  • Worldwide: N/A
  • DVD: N/A

Ratings

  • IMDb: N/A
  • RT: N/A
  • SR: N/A

The fact that this movie was pushed back from a mid-summer release to an early-February release should speak volumes about its box office risk. However, because it didn’t appear in theaters in 2014, we can’t accurately determine if that nearly quarter of a billion dollar investment paid off or not. For now, you’ll just have to watch the impressive new trailer for Jupiter Ascending and hold judgment until 2015.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Worth It

Guardians of the Galaxy Dave Bautista Zoe Saldana Vin Diesel Chris Pratt 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $170M

  • Domestic: $333M
  • Foreign: $438M
  • Worldwide: $771M
  • DVD: N/A

Ratings

  • IMDb: 8.3
  • RT: 90%
  • SR: 4 Stars

Since becoming its own movie studio, Marvel has only had one film underwhelm at the box office (The Incredible Hulk), but they took a big risk by deciding to bring to life one of the more obscure hero groups in their portfolio. That big risk turned into a giant reward as audiences everywhere drove Guardians of the Galaxy to be the number one domestic box office earner in 2014. Director James Gunn’s quirky outlook on the characters and story connected with audiences – and us as well, as we included two scenes from the film in our Top Movie Moments of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Worth It

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $125M

  • Domestic: $191M
  • Foreign: $286M
  • Worldwide: $477M
  • DVD: N/A

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.0
  • RT: 22%
  • SR: 2.5 Stars

Turtle Power isn’t what it used to be during its heyday in the mid-’90s, leading many to believe this latest installment in the Turtle franchise would get shell shocked at the box office. Turns out, the world still wants Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the late-summer action film had no problem covering its production costs. Critics, on the whole, panned the film as silly, nonsensical, or just plain bad, but we found some enjoyment in the well-executed action scenes and playful banter between the turtles themselves.

Dracula Untold – Worth it

Dracula Untold Luke Evans1 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $70M

  • Domestic: $56M
  • Foreign: $159M
  • Worldwide: $215M
  • DVD: N/A

Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.3
  • RT: 22%
  • SR: 2.5 Stars

Like other films on this list, Dracula Untold needed the foreign markets to push it into the black as it failed to really find a footing with domestic audiences. Creating an origin film for such a character as established as Dracula always comes with an inherent risk, but when the filmmakers decided that story would be filled with copious amounts of CG battles and supernatural lore not traditionally associated with the character, the risk was increased ten-fold. Universal Studios had a lot riding on this movie as they may be using it as a jumping off point for a shared monster movie universe.

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Not Worth It

Exodus Gods and Kings Christian Bale 570x320 The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014   Revisited


Budget: $140M

  • Domestic: $42M
  • Foreign: $62M
  • Worldwide: $104M

DVD: N/A Ratings

  • IMDb: 6.3
  • RT: 28%
  • SR: 3 Stars

Director Ridley Scott has experienced success multiple times in his career both critically and at the box office. However, it appears that Exodus: Gods and Kings won’t be one of those times. The Biblical epic succeeds at times in its retelling of the story about Moses leading the Hebrew people from hundreds of years of Egyptian slavery (specifically during the 10 plagues), but ultimately the film couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a full-on swords-and-sandals adventure or a historical-based epic. Whatever the reason, audiences across the globe have chosen to avoid this film like the plagues.

Conclusion

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All in all, just as many big-budget/high risk movies paid off and underperformed at the 2014 box office. While the box office success or failure of a particular film doesn’t necessarily affect the general moviegoer, it can affect whether fans of particular franchises will see a sequel or not, which is why we like to discuss them.

Be sure to check back as we will discuss the Biggest Box Office Risks of 2015 in the next couple of weeks.

Follow me on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and tell me which movie you think had the biggest payoff in 2014.