Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has already cemented its status as one of this year’s most notorious box office flops, and now reports indicate the damage could be a loss of $150 million. Coming into theaters one week after the latest Marvel hit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the medieval epic had an uphill climb commercially if it was to ultimately be a success. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., their $175 million investment posted a disastrous $15.4 million domestically, coming behind both Guardians 2 and the new comedy Snatched. Based on those figures, it was clear Legend of the Sword would probably fail to turn a profit for the studio.
With the financial figures this low, the only question was how much money King Arthur would lose when it was all said and done. Sometimes, a strong performance internationally can help a floundering project do respectful business, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Legend of the Sword disappointed in both America and the foreign markets, meaning WB is going to be in the red for a hefty sum.
According to THR, it’s estimated the flop will cost WB and Village Roadshow as much as $150 million. Analysts believe Legend of the Sword will finish with an awful global total of just $145 million – well short of its rather expensive production budget (which typically does not include marketing costs). Jeff Bock, a box office analyst, told the outlet King Arthur was a questionable concept from the start due to its somewhat bizarre advertising campaign and limited star power. Additionally, the widely negative reviews obviously did not help the film’s prospects, especially since it was going up against another well-received MCU installment. There wasn’t much interest or demand for another retelling of the King Arthur mythos, and nobody is truly surprised by the way things turned out.
WB will have to lick their wounds on this one, but things could turn around relatively quickly for the studio. DC Extended Universe blockbuster Wonder Woman premieres in a few weeks and is already tracking well. They also have Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk on the horizon, and Nolan is a filmmaker who can sell just about any concept with his name alone due to his passionate fan base. As long as these two films have strong showings at the multiplex, WB should be in good shape for the remainder of 2017. This fall also sees the releases of their anticipated works like Justice League and Blade Runner 2049, which are expected to do well at the box office.
The lesson here is that executives should perhaps be a bit more selective about what movies get the astronomical production budgets. Unless a film is an ironclad guarantee at the box office (an installment in a long-running popular franchise, for instance), the studios would probably be better served looking for ways to cut costs instead of bleeding money with a colossal failure. Building off this, WB is allegedly looking at the possibility of making fewer productions annually, depending more on established brands with a built-in audience (think: the Disney model). That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, since the suits would prefer a handful of hits to a long slate that’s unpredictable.