Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Avatar. Titanic. What do they have in common? They are the three highest-grossing movies in history ($936 million, $760 million, and $658 million, respectively, at the North American box office). Others in this esteemed club include Jurassic World, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight. But what about the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-grossing movies of all-time? What are they, and how much — or, should we say, how little — did they earn? Using information gathered from Box Office Mojo, the internet’s leading curator of such data, we have compiled a list of the fifteen bottom dwellers.
A few things to know about these movies. First, they’re fairly obscure. That should be fairly obvious. The other things are less obvious, and incredibly surprising. For instance, many of them have extremely recognizable stars in their casts (you’d think names of this caliber would yield bigger results than they did). And then there are the numbers themselves; you won’t believe how low they are. Seriously, you might have more money in your wallet or purse right now than at least half of these movies made during their theatrical runs. The most successful of the fifteen titles collected just over $300. We aren’t kidding. And it’s all downhill from there.
We should emphasize that how much a movie earns bears no reflection on its quality. Some of these movies are actually pretty good, while others are downright terrible. But for a variety of reasons we’ll get to, none of them sold many tickets. So sit back and get ready to discover which films earned an honor that no one wants.
Here are the 15 Lowest-Grossing Movies Of All Time. To be clear, the numbers listed here are simply the domestic box office grosses. Many of these films earned much more overseas or on home video.
15. News From Planet Mars – $310
News From Planet Mars, or Des Nouvelles de la Planete Mars as it is known in its native France, is a comedy about Philippe Mars (Francois Damiens), a forty-something IT programmer whose life is a little hectic. He tries to be a good father to two complicated teenagers after his ex-wife convinces him to take care of them. Then, one day at work, he is assigned to collaborate with Jerome (Vincent Macaigne), a mentally-unstable former college classmate. The team-up between the eternal peacemaker and the troubled psycho causes friction, leading to a series of darkly comic scenarios, including one in which Philippe loses an ear.
When it opened on July 22, 2016, News From Planet Mars played in only one theater. It came in at #102 on the box office charts for the weekend, beating out Neon Bull, which came in #103. Needless to say, this was what they call a “specialized” release. It’s not uncommon for foreign-language features to receive very minimal theatrical releases on this side of the pond, typically at cinemas that specifically feature global cinema or, more frequently, offer programming bills featuring the work of certain directors and/or films from certain countries. This would certainly account for its meager $310 gross.
14. Trojan War – $309
Trojan War is a little different from the other titles on this list, in that it was released by a major studio rather than an indie distributor. Warner Brothers at one point had hopes that this 1997 Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle would be the next hit teen comedy. Will Friedle (Boy Meets World) plays Brad, a young dude who is all set to have sex with his dream girl (Marley Shelton). There’s just one problem: he doesn’t have a condom. Brad sets out to procure one and encounters a series of ostensibly humorous complications in the process. Hewitt plays Leah, the best friend who’s secretly in love with him.
Produced for $15 million, Trojan War was supposed to capitalize on the success of Hewitt, Friedle, and Shelton, all of whom were “hot” at the time. Then WB saw the finished film and realized what an unfunny farce it was. (We’ve seen the movie. You shouldn’t.) Realizing they’d never earn even that meager budget back, the studio opted to simply dump the movie into a single theater, with no promotion. It earned just $309 dollars in its first week, after which it was yanked from release.
13. Lou! Journal Infime – $287
Lou! Journal Infime is French for “Lou! Small journal.” It’s an odd title, one that comes from a comic book series called Lou! that was later turned into an animated TV series in France. The book’s writer, Julian Neel, adapted his own work for the feature film version. Lola Lasseron plays 12-year-old Lou, a girl living with her frumpy single mother (noted French actress Ludivine Sagnier) in a cluttered apartment. When a good-looking single guy moves in next door, she tries to fix her mom up with him, hoping that a little romance will bring some happiness to both their lives.
While the comics and the TV show found popularity in France, they were unknown here when Lou! Journal Infime was released in April 2015. That put it at a disadvantage from the get-go. Compounding the problem was that teen girls — the film’s target audience — aren’t likely to go see something in a foreign language when there are plenty of movies aimed at them in English. And since poor reviews were almost unanimous in stating that adults weren’t likely to find much gratification from the story, the arthouse crowd stayed away too. Lou! played for a week before bowing out with a meager $287.
12. Intervention – $279
Intervention certainly has an interesting cast. The stars are respected actors Andie MacDowell, Charles Dance, Colm Feore, Jennifer Tilly…and former Baywatch actress Donna D’Errico. The story is about a man named Mark (Rupert Graves from Sherlock) forced to check into a rehabilitation clinic to deal with his addictions to sex and drugs. MacDowell and Feore play the psychologists in charge. They invite Mark’s wife to come and be part of his treatment, not knowing that he has invited his mistress for the same purpose. All kinds of drama ensues.
Outward appearances suggest that, despite some recognizable actors, no one had any interest in letting the world get a good look at Intervention. There are no reviews of it on Rotten Tomatoes, and its distributor slipped the movie into a single theater on November 30, 2007. Here’s the really weird part: according to Box Office Mojo, it closed on Dec. 2. That means that, rather than a week-long run, Intervention played for a single weekend only. The average ticket price in 2007 was $6.88, so when you divide that by the $279 gross, it means that about forty people saw the film theatrically over those three days.
11. Playback – $264
Christian Slater has had a career full of ups (Heathers, Mr. Robot) and downs (Mobsters, Kuffs), and one of his biggest low points came in the 2012 chiller Playback. In the film, he portrays Frank Lyons, a small-town police officer trying to stop a malevolent entity that has been unleashed by a high school student and his pals while attempting to make a film about a famous murderer. In a twist that’s either humorous or deeply stupid, depending upon your point of view, the entity can move from one victim to another via video transmission.
Why is this such a low point in Slater’s career? For starters, it has a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also raked in a scant $264 during its one week in a single theater. In fairness, Playback was released by Magnet Releasing, a company that gives most of its films token theatrical play simply to drive viewers to the on-demand release. They debuted the movie on Amazon, iTunes, and satellite/cable services a full month before plopping it in that solitary theater, effectively ensuring that there was no reason for anyone to pay to see it on the big screen.
10. Satanic – $252
Speaking of Magnet Releasing, they also distributed the next film on this list, Satanic. Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland plays one member of a group of college pals taking a tour of locations around Los Angeles where occult activity was known to have occurred. After following the spooky owner of an occult store to his home, they save a young woman from what appears to be a planned human sacrifice. She turns out to be something other than an innocent victim, though, and the friends quickly find their lives in grave danger.
Satanic opened on July 1, 2016 in three theaters, where it earned $205 for the weekend. (For comparison, Green Room, then in its 12th weekend, made five times as much while also in three theaters.) It pulled in an additional $47 the rest of the week for a grand total of $252. All this despite billing itself as “from the producer of The Walking Dead.” Then again, like Playback, it has a 0% at Rotten Tomatoes, so even a connection to that hit show apparently couldn’t entice people to pay full ticket price to see it.
9. Pretty Village, Pretty Flame – $211
The Serbian film Pretty Village, Pretty Flame was a massive hit in its native land, reportedly breaking box office records. It was also entered into the foreign-language category for the Academy Awards, although it failed to get a nomination. A dark comedy set during wartime, the movie follows two childhood acquaintances — one Muslim, the other a Serb — who grow up and find themselves on opposite sides of the Bosnian civil war.
If that subject matter doesn’t sound like a slam dunk with domestic audiences, you’re absolutely correct. Despite its homeland popularity, moviegoers on our shores weren’t lining up to see a movie about war in Bosnia, especially one devoid of Hollywood stars. Opening on January 16, 1996, Pretty Village, Pretty Flame had stiff competition for the attention of adults looking for mature, artistic entertainment. Amistad, The Boxer, and Martin Scorsese’s Kundun were all in theaters at the same time. Consequently, this one slipped in and out of cinemas with just $211.
8. Mummy, I’m a Zombie – $120
If you’ve never heard of Mummy, I’m a Zombie, don’t feel bad. It’s a Spanish-language animated film, and it’s not even the good kind of animation. No, this is one of those cheap-o animated features — less Zootopia and more Norm of the North. (See above photo.) And if you’ve never heard of it, you may be surprised to discover that it’s a sequel to another movie you’ve never heard of, Daddy, I’m a Zombie. The story follows young heroine/zombie Dixie as she attempts to prevent a brewing battle between the undead and the living who fear them.
Animated movies tend to do pretty well in the U.S. and Canada. Good ones frequently rank among the highest-grossing pictures of any given year. Even bad ones can usually eek out at least a semi-decent opening weekend, if nothing else. Perhaps because it was in Spanish — not to mention the fact that it was a sequel to a film no one in this country had seen — Mummy, I’m a Zombie wasn’t able to lure in those all-important family audiences. It should probably come as no surprise, then, that its total North American gross was only $120.
7. The Objective – $95
Remember Daniel Myrick? If you can’t quite place the name, he was, along with Eduardo Sanchez, the director of the influential phenomenon The Blair Witch Project. Despite that movie becoming the surprise you-gotta-see-it blockbuster of 1999, both Myrick and Sanchez were unable to parlay the success into bigger and better gigs. Both continued to make movies; they just continued making them on low budgets way outside the mainstream. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Except that none of their efforts came even remotely close to replicating Blair Witch‘s success. That film, produced for $60,000, earned $140 million in North America at the time. By contrast, Myrick’s The Objective — about a Special Ops team that discovers a Bermuda Triangle-type dimension in Afghanistan — garnered a grand total of just $95. No word on what the budget for this one was, but it’s safe to say that it was more than a hundred bucks. Since it opened on a Wednesday, the movie at least had the honor of playing to empty theaters for nine days rather than seven before closing.
6. Dog Eat Dog – $80
There have been several movies called Dog Eat Dog over the years. One of them is a 2008 Colombian crime drama about a low-level street thug who unwisely tries to rip off the agoraphobic crime boss monitoring street action via the many telescopes in his apartment. That thug ends up trapped in a hotel room with a guy who’s had a curse placed on him by the crime boss’s voodoo priestess of choice. Violent mayhem of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez variety follows.
Dog Eat Dog played at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and was submitted for Academy Award Consideration in the Foreign-Language category. It even managed to get picked up by IFC Films, a distributor known for releasing hip, artsy, and edgy fare. But IFC keeps theatrical play at a minimum for many of their pictures, often showing them exclusively in their NYC-owned theater, the IFC Center. This overall lack of availability is probably to blame for the meager $80 take Dog Eat Dog accumulated.
5. Paranoid Girls – $78
Paranoid Girls is a Spanish comedy about three female friends who enter the world of fashion, hoping to make a quick buck. They quickly become caught up in the glitz and glamour of it all. However, they also discover that there’s a real dark side, including drugs and sleazy people willing to take advantage of the innocent. It opened domestically in November 2015, and went on to earn a mere $78. There’s a clear reason why Paranoid Girls made so little, however. Its release was…kind of a non-release.
Let us explain. The director, Pedro del Santo, wanted his film to be considered for the Oscars, but Spain had already chosen to officially enter another picture. To be considered anyway, it needed to play for at least one week in one Los Angeles theater. He reached an agreement to have the Laemmle Theater’s Noho 7 show it daily, while he absorbed all costs for the print, poster, and similar items. Laemmle, meanwhile, invited critics and Academy voters to come and see the film. In other words, it was never really targeted at general paying audiences, although they were welcome to buy a ticket. The one-week qualifying run didn’t end up working, as Paranoid Girls failed to land its desired nomination.
4. Confession of a Child of the Century – $74
Pete Doherty is famous for a couple of things. He was the lead singer of two popular British bands, the Libertines and Babyshambles. He had a well-publicized drug problem that eventually landed him in jail. He was a good friend to Amy Winehouse and a former boyfriend of model Kate Moss. You might have known some of this. What may be new information to you is that Doherty also tried his hand at acting, co-starring with Charlotte Gainsbourg in Confession of a Child of the Century.
Set in 1830 Paris, the plot follows a deeply depressed man named Octave who falls in love with a widow ten years older than he is, and he has to learn to trust that he can find happiness. The movie had the honor of competing in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival. That gave it some heat, but let’s be honest and admit that stories like this aren’t exactly catnip to viewers looking to have a good time at the cinema. And while Doherty has some name recognition here, he’s not exactly a Bono or a Mick Jagger. Consequently, Confession of a Child of the Century snuck out of theaters with just $74 in the till.
3. Storage 24 – $72
Storage 24 is a low-budget British horror film about a couple who find themselves trapped inside a London storage facility with an extraterrestrial creature that’s none too friendly. It was written by its star, Noel Clarke, known to many for his role as Mickey Smith on Doctor Who. The movie did respectably in several countries, including its native UK and Turkey. Not big numbers, mind you, but good enough for a picture that wasn’t too expensive to produce.
As you can imagine, the British press was very interested in how it would fare with American audiences. A number of media outlets there covered the fact that Storage 24 earned a stunningly low $72 in the U.S. According to The Guardian, Magnolia Pictures — the studio holding North American rights to the movie — had a contractual obligation to play it theatrically in order to take advantage of a TV deal. So they did the absolute bare minimum, showing it in exactly one theater for only one day. When we do the math, it means that about eight people showed up to see Storage 24 on that day. If, by some chance, you were one of them, consider yourself part of a very exclusive club.
2. Pet – $70
Believe it or not, the second lowest-grossing movie ever came out just last year. Pet is a thriller about an Animal Control Department worker named Seth (played by Lost star Dominic Monaghan) who becomes obsessed with a young woman he sees on a bus, eventually taking her hostage and keeping her locked inside of a cage. What follows is a strange plot twist (which we won’t spoil here) that leads to a series of mind games the two characters play with each other.
Like many of the films we’ve discussed, Pet was relegated to one theater for its release. The joint distributors, Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films, made it available on-demand at the same time, which meant the theatrical play was more of a “you can rent this movie at home while it’s still in theaters” marketing hook than anything. Pet ended up with a grand total of $70, $63 of which came from its opening weekend. For what it’s worth, three other films made even less that weekend, including Hubble 3D, which made $13. Hey, a massive box office bomb has to find comfort where it can, right?
1. Zyzzyx Road – $30
Remember at the top of this list when we said you might have more money in your wallet than some of these movies made at the box office? We weren’t kidding. The lowest-grossing film in history is a 2006 thriller called Zyzzyx Road. It stars Katherine Heigl as a young sexpot who teams up with an accountant (Leo Grillo) to murder her ex-boyfriend (Tom Sizemore) and dispose of his body. And what’s the record-setting gross? Just $30. Nope, that’s not a typo.
How does a movie make so little? In this case, the theatrical run was intended to fulfill a Screen Actors Guild requirement allowing actors to be paid less than the usual SAG minimum, provided the low-budget film in question gets a release in theaters. The producers were trying to meet that requirement silently, with the intention of launching a full-fledged release later on. They engaged in a process called “four-walling” — literally renting out a theater to play a movie. The Dallas, Texas cinema they rented showed Zyzzyx Road daily at noon for a week. Six people attended, one of whom was a make-up artist who worked on the film. Grillo (also one of the producers) found out that she and a friend showed up and insisted on refunding their ticket money. So, if you want to get technical about it, the gross was twenty bucks.
Needless to say, the regular theatrical release never happened, and Katherine Heigl has generally declined to discuss the movie in interviews.
What do you think about these low-grossing movies? By any chance, did you see one of them theatrically? If so, we want to hear all about it! Tell us your story in the comments.
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