The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Published 9 months ago by , Updated May 18th, 2014 at 8:43 pm,

riskiest box office bets 2014 square header The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

People like to think that Hollywood churns out hundreds of films each year simply to entertain movie-going audiences – but that’s just not the case. Sure, there are some independent filmmakers out there making movies for art’s sake, but every studio is the business of making movies for one primary reason – money.

As we did in 2013, we’ve pulled 13 movies from the slate of films scheduled to release in 2014 that we feel are the Riskiest Box Office Bets. We’ll list the opening date – along with the estimated budget (if available) – and discuss why we believe the film could be fighting an uphill battle to be financially successful.

Let’s get started…

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1. The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules Kellan Lutz The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 1/10 – Budget: $70M

Most cinephiles recognize Renny Harlin as the director of mindless, fun action films such as Die Hard 2 as well as Deep Blue Sea and any action fan worth his salt knows how good Scott Atkins (Ninja) is as a martial arts/action actor. However, outside of Kellan Lutz, there aren’t really any “A-List” Hollywood names attached to The Legend of Hercules.

It begs the question – why would Summit Entertainment spend $70M on a January action film? Maybe they’re hoping Lutz will bring in the Twilight crowd – though we can’t see middle-aged moms and love-struck teen girls lining up hours in advance just to see this at midnight.

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2. I, Frankenstein

I Frankenstein Aaron Eckhart The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 1/24 – Budget: $36M

Unlike The Legend of Hercules, this film managed to snag great actors like Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (About Time) and Miranda Otto (Return of the King) but even their combined acting talents may not be enough to overcome one of the most preposterous story lines we’ve read in a while.

Much like the namesake for which the film is titled, I, Frankenstein seems to be patched together from the corpses of other action/horror films (despite its graphic novel source material) – Underworld, Van Helsing, Highlander, Hellboy, Constantine. Modern audiences have widly varying cinematic tastes and can usually spot a stinker from the first trailer – which means they could stay away from this film if they consider it be one.

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3. Robocop

Robocop 2014 Joel Kinnaman The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 2/12 – Budget: $110M

Skyfall and The Hobbit pulled MGM out of bankruptcy, so you’d think they would be leery of investing very large sums of money into risky movies – which is exactly what RebootCop RoboCop has become.

With big(gish) names like Keaton, Oldman, and Jackson attached to the feature, the studio probably assumed this reboot would be a “slam dunk” at the box office but most audiences members are either nostalgically cautious of the reboot or they’re too young to remember the original. A lot rides on how well the movie is received opening weekend – if it’s great, there could be a box office bump in week two – if not, then all is lost.

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4. Pompeii

Pompeii Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje Kit Harington The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 2/21 – Budget: $100M

The synopsis for Pompeii seems to be a cross between Gladiator and 2012 – a slave becomes an accomplished warrior, falls in love with a woman he shouldn’t and battles to rescue her as Mount Vesuvius explodes around him. The heavy use of CG in this film is the obvious reason for its 9-figure budget – destroying an entire city isn’t cheap is it Man of Steel? – but with a virtual lack of “A-List” talent, will all that destruction-porn be enough to draw in an audience?

Paul W. S. Anderson is the director of films that everyone pans but almost everyone watches anyway (Resident Evil, Death Race 2000). That fact, along with the fact that Pompeii won’t have much competition, could be its box office saving grace.

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5. Need for Speed

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

Opens: 3/14 – Budget: $66M

The best thing Need for Speed has going for it is the casting of Aaron Paul in the leading role, but even as he comes off a highly successful TV franchise – Breaking Bad saw 10 million people watch its finale – that may not be enough box office karma to overcome the film’s video game roots.

Video game adaptations historically don’t do well domestically at the box office (see the complete list HERE) for a variety of reasons – typically the scripts are bad – but almost all of them do well overseas. Fortunately, Touchstone didn’t throw an insane amount of money at this project, so it could turn out to be a real box office gem for them.

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6. Noah

Noah Russell Crowe The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 3/28 – Budget: $130M

In Noah, acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) set forth on an ambitious project to turn one of the most debated stories in the Bible into a major motion picture. Even with Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe at the helm of the ark this film has HUGE hurdles to overcome.

The amount of backlash studios receive from fanboys over poor comic book adaptations is nothing compared to upsetting an entire religion if Hollywood – not exactly known for its strong Judeo-Christian roots – starts making drastic changes to Biblical stories. If Aronofsky takes too many liberties, the studio will likely feel the pinch at the box office collection plate.

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7. Godzilla

Godzilla Bryan Cranston Aaron Johnson The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 5/16 – Budget: $160M

Warner Bros has a lot riding on director Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) vision for arguably the most popular science fiction monster of all time – Godzilla. Sony’s horrid attempt in 1998 was financially successful but the film was so critically destroyed that a sequel was never even considered.

Judging by coverage the film received at San Diego Comic Con in 2013 and the first trailer, Edwards appears to be on the fast track to success but will audiences be still interested with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opening the week before and X-Men: Days of Future of Past opening the following week? The atomic lizard has a very loyal worldwide fan base, which could be what gets it over the opening weekend hump.

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8. X-Men: Days of Future Past

X Men Days of Future Past James McAvoy The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 5/23 – Budget: $225M

Even though X-Men: First Class received generally high marks from critics and audiences, it didn’t quite cover its production budget at domestic box office – needing the overseas market to turn a profit. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the most ambitious – and expensive – outing for Fox and the franchise yet.

Though the film ranks number three on our Most Anticipated Films of 2014, the fact remains, that outside of fanboys, the audience required to recoup $250 million plus marketing costs just may not be there. There’s very little doubt the film will be successful but can it be a quarter of a billion dollars successful?

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9. Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending Channing Tatum Mila Kunis The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 7/18 – Budget: $200M (Rumored)

The Wachowski siblings haven’t had a financially successful film since The Matrix Revolutions left theaters in 2003. Over the next 10 years, their cinematic offerings included Cloud Atlas (oof) and Speed Racer (double oof) – not exactly what you would call a “box office power house.”

Still, Warner Bros liked their script pitch for Jupiter Ascending so much they not only green lit the project, but gave it a staggering $200 million budget – the Wachowski’s last two films only grossed $223 million…WORLD WIDE. Casting Mila Kunis could inadvertently mean the sci-fi film turns out to be a success, as her last six films have raked in $1.8 Billion in gross receipts – though that’s probably just a coincidence.

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10. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Zoe Saldana Chris Pratt Bradley Cooper Dave Bautista Vin Diesel The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 8/1 – Budget: Unknown

Marvel surprised everyone at Comic Con in 2012 when they announced one of their stranger comic series – Guardians of the Galaxywould become a feature film. They surprised once more by announcing James Gunn would be directing their riskiest outing yet.

Gunn is a talented director but Disney could regret allowing someone with no experience directing big budget films to helm the project if box office numbers aren’t stellar. One positive is how enthusiastic Gunn is towards the comic books, characters and story. The exact budget for the film hasn’t been released but it could easily be upwards of $150 million.

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11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michaelangelo Raphael Leonardo Donatello The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 8/8 – Budget: $125M

The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film in 1990 grossed over $200 million on a $13.5 million investment, but that was during the height of the world’s love of everything Turtles.

Fast forward 21 years, Nickelodeon Studios has a popular new TMNT animated series but for the most part, the frenzy has died down. Some argue making Michael Bay executive producer means he will do something crazy to the turtle canon (like once making them aliens) but typically the movies he is associated with make lots and LOTS of money. Anti-Bay fanatics aside, whether the world is still interested in Turtle power remains to be seen.

Image Credit: Stjepan Sejic (nebezial)

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12. Dracula Untold

Dracula Untold Luke Evans The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 10/17 – Budget: Unknown

Most everyone is familiar with Dracula due to his being portrayed in cinema countless times over the years, but he’s never been given a proper origin story - Dracula Untold looks to correct that. While some films have touched upon how he came into existence, it’s usually as a smaller part of the larger story. This will be the first time his origins are actually explored (with a number of changes to the usual canon).

 The budget numbers haven’t been made public but rumor has it placed well above $100 million and time will tell if Gary Shore’s big screen directorial debut is a success. The supernatural origins of Vlad the Impaler as Dracula is definitely an intriguing concept but the film can’t be all teeth and no bite.

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13. Exodus

Exodus Christian Bale The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Opens: 12/12 – Budget: Unknown

While the Biblical story of the Israelites escaping from Egyptian captivity has been told several times, the film will undoubtedly be compared to Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments. Christian Bale is a fantastic actor but can he fill Charlton Heston’s sandals as Moses? Exodus will also need to overcome the same religious obstacles as Noah and in some ways, is connected at the box office hip to how Noah is received by Faith-based moviegoers.

As revered as Ridley Scott is as a director in the film community, he hasn’t connected with American audiences at domestic box office hit since American Gangster in 2007. With Prometheus, Robin Hood and The Counselor not performing at high levels, Scott needs this film to succeed.

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Conclusion

Robocop 2014 Joel Kinnaman The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2014

Hopefully, most of these films meet or exceed our expectations and entertain audiences all year long but the cold reality is, some of them will most likely fall short. That’s the harsh truth of the world of cinema, it’s just a matter of seeing which ones fall the hardest or rise the highest.

Which films do you think will struggle to find an audience and a profit in 2014?

Follow me on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and tell me which movies you think could fail financially.

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TAGS: Dracula Untold, Exodus, godzilla, guardians of the galaxy, i frankenstein, jupiter ascending, need for speed, noah, pompeii, robocop, teenage mutant ninja turtles, The Legend of Hercules, x-men days of future past

143 Comments

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  1. Good list Paul Young, ‘The Legend of Hercules’ is risky indeed and yet the cast is kind of a B-List. So as I’ Frankenstein but Rebootcop I believe is gonna do well because of the casting of A-listers and its also a recognizable character for this generation

  2. You know I wasn’t convinced by any of the big trailers except to be honest Godzilla (which I never thought I want to see but now I do). However I’m completely unconvinced by the comic book movies this year, they look kinda weird which is why I’m waiting to the big year 2015! But personally don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy is gonna do well, I mean even thou its completely different, Green Lantern pretty much showed that space heroes are no gos.

    • @Laura – How does “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” look weird, you’ve got to explain that one to me, it looks like it’s going to be a combination of a modern day action film and a 70′s political thriller, nothing weird about that sweetheart. Now TASM2, DOFP & GOTG do have crazy wild looking elements to them, but they look exciting as well. So space heroes are a no go huh, well Star Wars would like to have a word with you.

      • Yeah and the last three star wars films all sucked, relied on the star wars name to make money

    • “Green Lantern pretty much showed that space heroes are no gos.” Right, because Superman isn’t a space hero and space is why the Green Lantern movie was critically panned.

    • And rather you’re convinced by this year’s comic book movies or not it doesn’t matter in the least, because they’re still going to be big hits at the box office and make lots of money period.

    • Space wasn’t Green Lantern’s problem by a g****** long shot.

    • “But personally don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy is gonna do well, I mean even thou its completely different, Green Lantern pretty much showed that space heroes are no gos.”

      90% of Green Lantern scenes were on Earth. The only good parts were the space parts (mainly Sinestro).

      Either way, there hasn’t been an actual cosmic superhero that has been adapted properly on screen and GotG looks closer to Star Trek, which we all know is doing very successful, than a comic book film set on Earth (2008 Marvel Cosmic’s series’ strongest aspects was that their stories never featured Earth as a major point).

      • @Anonymous – I believe GOTG can do well, but it’s certainly Marvel’s riskiest movie yet. Marvel needs to sell it to the general public with strong trailers starting with the first one rumored to air during this year’ Super Bowl next month. It’s a very unpoven and unestablished franchise, so Marvel really needs to start selling it now. I’m looking forward to seeing it this summer, but I realize there are so many people out there who don’t know what the hell GOTG is yet, it’s up to Marvel/Disney to show them what it is and get them excited with anticipation to see it.

      • Yeah but star trek has jj Abrams

    • beautiful

  3. @ Laura:

    You don’t know cinema history, then.

  4. “Days of Future Past,” will be interesting. I think it will draw a lot more than just the fan boys. With the popularity of a certain Hunger Games actress, the movie will be able to capture all the fan boys’ girlfriends. Not to mention the draw of the GoT crowd with Peter Dinklage. And everyones’ favorite bromance Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, or as I like to call them “Proneto” or “Picardalf.” I have high hopes for it. It’s an awesome cross-over cast (GoT/Hunger Games/Star Trek/LotR). In a perfect world (OK, in Fox’s perfect world) all those fandoms will show up for it.

    • Solid points.

      The movie will be a hit, thats for sure. How big? we’ll just have to wait and see

    • You’ve made very solid and justifiable points!

      I have no idea why this is on a “riskiest” list at all, oh wait, yes I do, because supposedly everyone hated Last Stand so much that X-Fandom and gen audience would turn away from one of the most acclaimed storylines in comic book history!

      Right?

  5. For RoboCop, I’m assuming that picture is for the reboot. If so, why did they keep the bulky armor? I’d figured they go more new-school and provide a suave, sleek, and new RoboCop. I remember watching half of the first.

    As for TMNT, are they seriously going to look like that? And Megan Fox as April makes me cringe.

    • That’s just his prototype armour, a nod to the original. He later on gets tactical armour which is sleek and black. Watch the trailer you’ll see.

      • in other words… “you want to be able to turn your head!”

        sorry, i couldn’t resist :)

  6. X-men, Noah, Exodus, Godzilla, Guardians of the galaxy, and im sure TMNT will make some solid money, but alot of the others might not do so well.

  7. I think I Frankenstein, Godzilla, Maybe Robocop and TMNT will make money I think all the rest will bomb. Oh and Xmen will do good. I guess the rest depends on the trailers. Some of those movies just look like bad ideas brought to the screen.

  8. I think Guardians of the galaxy will be amazing, and a huge success. As for the rest on this list, most will under perform or break even at best. Except X-men. X-men should do well.

    • Patrick – So you’re saying TASM2 will underperform or break even, dude the worst the ‘Spidey’ films have made at the box office is 752 million worldwide, the best the X-Men films have made is 459 million worldwide, now you do the math and add that up homie. And “Thor: The Dark World” was made for 170 million and has grossed over 630 million worldwide and still has yet to open in Japan. ‘The Winter Soldier’s’ budget is probably between 160-170 million and that film will pull in 550-600 million worldwide, trust me. And another fact i’ll make very clear to you, if TASM2 is great it has the potential to gross 1 billion at the box office this year, the only CBM capable of doing that this year. Plus DOFP budget is higher than the other CBM’s this year, you need to learn how to count bro.

  9. This is a ridiculous list. Only a few of these films don’t already have major cult followings. Most of these story lines, remakes, or themes were chosen precisely because they are low risk… how do we know this? Because most of these films will gross a lot of $$$. They creators know it, too, which is why they will be happy to spend tons of cash on special effects and lousy scripts.

  10. As I stated, I was only commenting on the movies on this list, bro.

  11. Wow, you based these movies as risky solely on how many “big names” are in them. How shallow

  12. Guardians of the Galaxy is hardly a risk at all. Sure it’s an unproven property but so were Iron Man & Thor before their movies became hits. If anything GOTG is in a better position than these considering Marvel studio’s brand name is so established now that it’s on par with Pixar these days. People will see ‘Marvel’ under GOTG and say “oh a Marvel movie, I’m gonna watch this”.

    • @Odotry – It’s a risk, but it’s a good one and certainly one worth taking. Yes Iron Man, Thor & Cap we’re unproven at the box office before their films, no doubt about that. That being said GOTG are not nearly as known to he public as Iron Man, Thor, Cap and Hulk we’re, let’s not be silly now with unfair comparisons. Hell Spider-Man and the X-Men we’re unproven at the box office before their first films hit theaters over a decade ago, would you going to seriously compare GOTG to them as well. Saying something that’s never been on the big screen is no risk at all is wrong, any comic book property that’s never been made into a movie with no track record is always a risk until it proves itself my friend. That being said I’m now anticipating seeing GOTG this summer, something i wasn’t last year.

    • Agreed!

    • Ummmm Guardians is an EXTREME risk nothing like Iron Man, Captain America or Thor…Guardians is about as obscure and irrelivant as they could have chosen. It hasn’t even been a halfway descent book in years if not decades, Which is exactly why it will more than likely flop

      • “It hasn’t even been a halfway descent book in years if not decades, Which is exactly why it will more than likely flop”
        You just lost all credibility from speaking.
        Iron Man was INCREDIBLY obscure before the 2008 movie. The GOTG have already been introduced to many audiences, especially the younger ones, and a space-faring epic can’t go wrong. It’s going to be humorous and action packed and it won’t flop. Besides, since when do most movie goers care about the popularity of the comics? When have any of them ever read a comic? It WON’T MATTER

        • Exactly Peter, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. What the actors of the movie alone are saying about it gives me hope. Bradley Cooper is raving about it as are the 10 other A-listers on it. So many people are going to eat their words when it comes out. Plus it will tie into Avengers 2 and everything will tie in together by Avengers 5.

        • “Iron Man was INCREDIBLY obscure before the 2008 movie”

          O.K, I’m not a comic book guy in the slightest, but I knew who that was long before the movie came out. so I highly doubt that Iron Man could be considered “obscure”

      • @The Mighty Deadpoolio – While I agree with you that GOTG is not nearly as known as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor we’re to the mainstream when their films debuted on the big screen, I disagree that it will be a flop. Remember Marvel/Disney will promote the hell out of this film, and they have the platform and resources to successfully accomplish it, I’m sure you will agree with that.

      • @mighty deadpoolio

        I too agree that guardians could implode. My reasons are simple. As a comicbook fan we see the characters and have visuals on the looks. My issue is that that gamora seems rather like a green avatar and draxx I’m extremly angy that his markings look like self inflicted scars instead of taToos. Also I don’t see the as one person on a forum said the star power of bradley cooper and vin disel….dissels says three words the whole movie. And cooper is never seen plus we don’t know WHAT they are conna do for his voice….autotune change pitch and such. I don’t think we can honestly say its a marvel movie its a hit. Because as many have said gotg is way too obscure for casual movie goer who may expect iron man in space or something.

        This movie will need to sell its self because realisticly it could be a green lantern waiting to flop. 2013 has proved that the name marvel doesn’t gaurente gold….im3 angered many fans and as the first post avengers movie it was bound to be a hit but thor 2 showed me that they need a strong villian to support throwing another movie….and they need to think of interconectivity…where was sheild during im3….or thor 2…. the AoS are selling that they have agents all over the world and not a single one is in either…..phase faltered in 2013.

  13. Did anyone else notice in the Need For Speed pic, that Aaron Paul has the infamous Jessie Pinkman tribal tattoo on his forearm?!

  14. Re: Dracula Untold – Ummm, “never been given a proper origin story”??? I think F.F. Coppola & Gary Oldman might disagree with you on that one.

    • Ofcourse, movies have referenced Dracula’s origins, but never has there been an origin story for Dracula.

      • Will that is just incorrect. There have been many, in Film, television, and literature. Specifically Joe Chappelle’s “Dracula: The Dark Prince” comes to mind. So don’t say it’s never been done…

  15. I can’t wait to see what u got 4 us this year 2014.

  16. I think u people should first think before getting out with something. this is amazing as you keep the films in the list of most anticipated as well as in the list of most riskiest

  17. Riiiiiiight it was the “space” part that was the problem, not the cloud bad guy, the elephant man bad guy and the movie being less about action than mental anguish…..

    The first Hulk movie really did confirm that there is no profits in super hero movies right

    • What are you talking about? Both of the Hulk movies made Marvel over $100 million in profits, and that was before Disney bought Marvel.

  18. Who cares?! These films all look awesome! I can’t wait to see i,frankenstein! What the hell is wrong with your guys’ eyes?! ; l just have fun watching movies. If they suck, so what?

  19. I know too much about classical African history to take any of hollywood’s movies about egypt or the exodus myth seriously…. just keep the comic book movies coming.

  20. Guardians of the Galaxy fits in perfectly with Marvel’s Universe, they are taking a chance, which is AWESOME. This movie will surprise many.

  21. Hercules wasnt a risk. This movie was doomed and pretty much guaranteed to fail based on casting alone.

    • @psyphi407 – You’re probably right. You need a big name when you’re trying to sell unproven franchises to movie audiences, or chances are good the film will perform like this latest ‘Hercules’ film.

  22. We should be praising Hollywood for taking risks with lesser known IP’s! All too often it relies on established franchises for sequels and remakes. (just look at the number of sequels and remakes in this list)

  23. guardians of the galaxy has a talking, gun wielding raccoon, it’ll be fine, what’s the risk?

  24. i mostly agree with the list. Godzilla..from the trailer, looks quite promising, but the release date (between spidey and x-men) MIGHT hurt its b.o. numbers.

    Guardians…INDEED..it’s the biggest risk marvel’s taking on since..well, the first Iron Man flick in 08.

    Dracula Untold…should remained UNTOLD. especially with there being a series on the character already..STOOPID risk to me.

  25. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a bit pissed off about the intro picture for this article. The only reason I started reading it was because I thought they were finally going to make a god of war movie. You suck, getting my hopes up and drawing me in with lies!

  26. lovepreetshign

  27. Do they really think that the movieindustry will survive when they have no quality to deliver.

    R.I.P

    Hollywood, better save up your money or you wont be able to pay the actors what they want
    and keep a high face ibn their 200 million cribs

    Not one NEW fresh script, just old BS as always!

  28. true.. let’s see how it pans out + come heck out my blog site http://www.nonsoosaji.com

    tell me what you think….

  29. Everthing as it is