It takes a quite a few elements of a movie working in simultaneous harmony in order to make it a bonafide success. From a stellar cast and solid script down to savvy marketing and strong visuals that draw you in, the anticipation that comes before a movie’s release is just as important as the reveal itself.
Some movies, however, are clearly dead in the water from the get go. From re-imagining classic animated characters like The Last Airbender‘s Katara to adapting beloved television series’ such as Bewitched, we explore the 10 movies that flopped before they even had a chance at being a box office hit.
10. Pan (2015)
Amongst Hook (1991), Peter Pan (1953), and Finding Neverland (2004), Pan is the prequel no-one asked for. Warner Bros. may have attempted to breathe new life into the tale as they had once done with the likes of Batman Begins, but Pan fell flat before it had a chance to fly. Disney has succeeded in recent years when it comes to reviving old tales in live-action form with special effects, Cinderella being a prime example. Warner Bros., however, churned out the forgettable Jack and the Giant Slayer and it seems Pan went exactly the same way.
The magic with Peter is his mysterious backstory, a bit of history demolished by Pan when he’s shown to be an orphan in World War II, dragged off to Neverland by a group of steampunk-esque pirates. The movie might have had a fairly impressive lineup that included the likes of Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, and Garrett Hedlund, but with it opening to a depressing $15.3 million after a $150 million spend, perhaps the studio need to re-think their approach to fairytale revivals. Read: not everyone needs an origin story, Hollywood.
9. Catwoman (2004)
Over the years, the depictions of Catwoman have been widely varied. While Julie Newmar brought sultry wiles to a polished outfit in the Batman television series (1966), Michelle Pfeiffer envisaged the villain as an unhinged seductress in a hand-stitched suit for 1992’s Batman Returns.
Unfortunately, an adoration for the character became disjointed with the announcement of Halle Berry’s Catwoman in 2004. Aesthetically, Berry provided an appealing Catwoman (in that she’s insanely beautiful), but with Sharon Stone’s bizarre role as a villainous cosmetics mogul, the movie had some serious flaws. Grossing a mere $81 million against a production budget of $100 million, the film was crushed by its box office competition, The Bourne Supremacy and I, Robot. Thankfully for Selina Kyle fans, the character’s origins were a bit more accurately depicted a few years later in The Dark Knight Rises, and we may even see her pop up in the upcoming DC films at some point.
8. We Are Your Friends (2015)
Zac Efron has been starring in a plague of post-teen party flops of late, but We Are Your Friends has to be the cherry on that tanked cake. The film was meant to be the success story of a young DJ, but turned out to be an embarrassing depiction of the EDM community, with all music fans feeling pretty insulted. Initial casting created dire disappointment, and the generic dumbed-down female role played by Gone Girli’s Emily Ratajkowski certainly didn’t help matters. Warner Bros. missed an obvious plug by failing to get the dance community on board with any sort of marketing initiative. That, coupled with the fact that the film was released on a weekend when millions of students were just returning to college, meant that their chances of connecting with their target audience were dead in the water.
We Are Your Friends did break records though, just not in a good way. The movie was placed third for the worst opening weekend ever alongst wide-releases, with a mere $1.8 million. Luckily, it only cost $6 million to make and $2 million to distribute, although that says a lot for the film’s actual production value.
7. By The Sea (2015)
Desperate to leave behind their cheesy spy personas in Mr and Mrs Smith, real-life couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt set out on a vanity project, creating a heavily-filtered attempt at European cinema in By The Sea. First impressions saw an mute trailer with a poorly articulated storyline, one that was seemingly attempting to depict a married couple in turmoil while on holiday in France. Yes, her make-up was flawless and she may have looked glamorous, but there is no denying that what kept viewers away was the simple fact Jolie used her money and influence to control the creation of a movie she thought would work, and it didn’t.
Making $95,000 in the first weekend of its release was really rather embarrassing, as it seems cinema-goers much preferred Spectre or the Best Picture-winning Spotlight to By the Sea on this occasion. Although it won’t hurt either actor in terms of reputation, you do have to question what it was that they were thinking.
6. 47 Ronin (2013)
As far as dull fantasy adventures go (and there’s a lot of them), this is up there with one of the worst. Let’s go back to 2008, when the initial script was imagined — think dazzling sword fights, Lord of the Rings-level visuals and martial arts feats that would please both the American and Asian markets.
So what went wrong for 47 Ronin? An ambitious undertaking in terms of filmmaking, the story went through a lengthy series of re-writes, and first-time director Carl Rinsch couldn’t seem to find the balance he wanted between Eastern legend and Western modernizations. A largely Japanese cast stood behind the film’s American lead Keanu Reeves, but with with two postponed release dates and Rick Genest’s “Zombie Boy” thrown in to further confuse moviegoers, the movie was doomed before release.
5. Bewitched (2005)
American comedy fantasy Bewitched charmed it’s television audiences in the ’60s and ’70s, and what better way to revive your favourite suburban witch Samantha than with a reboot, right? Wrong. Changing the story became the first point in a string a problems that resulted in the downfall of the film. Despite it’s strong pairing of Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in the lead roles, the story of a witch disguised as an actress who auditions for a role in television series actually called Bewitched is utterly bewildering.
What may have at one point seemed clever to the filmmakers was instead a disappointment to fans of the original, and the film was ultimately dominated at the box office by the likes of Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Receiving widely negative reviews, the film also earned Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell a Golden Raspberry for the Worst Screen Couple.
4. The Last Airbender (2010)
There is always a contentious issue when a much-loved animated series is transformed into a live-action film, but for The Last Airbender, a plethora of issues arose before the critics could engulf it in its inevitable tidal wave of criticism. Delving into the bare bones behind the production, it seems the casting was sprinkled with nepotism. Cast as protagonist Katara, Nicola Peltz was said to be the daughter of a billionaire and CEO to an influential investment management fund. When it came to the antagonist Prince Zuko, former teen pop star Jesse McCartney was originally tapped for the role, although it was rumored the producers feared a diversity backlash, so they opted for Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel instead. The film’s use of green screen exhausted the budget, and the decision to use Pennsylvania as a filming location stand-in for the fantasy world of Avatar was a head-scratcher to say the least.
All of this sits under the umbrella of an M. Night Shyamalan creation, one which is rarely a success and (nowadays) likely to be an everlasting disappointment. Box office-wise, the movie made $40 million in it’s opening weekend, though the film’s epically bad reviews and bloated budget ensured its place among the worst of the worst.
3. The Avengers (1998)
You would be forgiven for thinking that The Avengers (no, not the superhero team-up) was a product of the terrible reboot trend of ’90s, a time when television series’ were being transformed into live-action flops. There’s no-one that could really match the innocent on-screen chemistry Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee had in the ’60s original, but at least Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes tried.
The film started to go wrong when Director Jeremiah S. Chechik handed Warner Bros a 150 minute long cut. Test screenings were highly unsuccessful, and the movie was then slashed to 87 minutes, which resulted in large plot holes, inconsistencies, and continuity errors throughout the film. When it reaches cinemas, it tallied $10 million in it’s opening weekend, but with a budget of $60 million, the film was deemed unsuccessful.
2. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
An intergalactic disaster that exposed the limitations of CGI on a shoestring budget, The Adventures of Pluto Nash told the story of humans colonizing the moon at the end of the 21st century; where cloning and body modification takes centre stage in the film. Troubles began when the film was first realised in the 1980s, but the script had so many revisions that production only began in April 2000 and finished in September of the same year. It was then shelved for two years before being released in August 2002 — which is never a good sign.
Pluto Nash marked the first of many big-budget bombs that starred former A-Lister Eddie Murphy, and with Jennifer Lopez turning down the role of his love interest, Rosario Dawson took her place as a character with the sole purpose of asking obvious questions to attempt to fill in the disaster’s gaping plot holes. On the then-gargantuan budget of $120 million, only a mere $2.1 million was earned in the first weekend. In the end, the film barely scratched its way to $7 million at the box office, making it one of the most epic flops in cinematic history.
1. Jem and the Holograms (2015)
The ’80s animated television series Jem told the story of Jerrica Benton, a music company owner with an alter ego as the lead singer of a band, the Holograms. Created by the team who brought us Transformers and G. I. Joe, the cartoon was became iconic, so it was only a matter of time before a live-action film attempted to recreate the story — with disastrous consequences. The first mistake was that the 2015 remake bore little resemblance to the original, trading out the ’80s charm in favour of modern youth culture with smartphones, “liking” and some seriously weak pop music.
Although the film utilized a remarkably low budget of $5 million, it made a measly $1.32 million in it’s opening weekend. Director Jason Blum said in a recent interview that he takes all blame for the flop — for someone who bounces between arthouse movies like Whiplash and documentaries like How to Dance in Ohio, Blum has admitted himself that perhaps he needs to slow down. Frankly though, it seems as though the box office gods were the ones to blame here: Jem and the Holograms received its release alongside Steve Jobs and The Last Witch Hunter, both of which also tanked spectacularly.
Which of these films deserved a bigger take at the box office? Which bombs did you see coming a mile away? Let us know in the comments below.