Universal Pictures has enjoyed a stellar run at the box office in 2015, with record-breaking returns on such tentpoles as Furious 7 and Jurassic World. However, the same cannot be said for some of the competition, like Warner Bros. – which does boast a handful of commercial hits in 2015 to its name (San Andreas, Mad Max: Fury Road), but also a number of film that saw middling returns at the box office (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and now two costly under-performers in Jupiter Ascending and Pan.
The Wachowskis’ space opera Jupiter Ascending cost $176 million to make (not counting marketing costs), yet grossed $183 million worldwide and only $47 million state-side. Director Joe Wright’s Peter Pan origins/prequel film, Pan, in turn cost $150 million to produce alone – and right now, the film is on course to become an ill-advised investment for WB.
THR‘s analysts are currently projecting that Pan could result in a $150 million loss for WB, following on the heels of the family-friendly 3D fantasy adventure having grossed $40.5 million worldwide during its opening frame (including $15.3 million in the U.S.). Here’s where that number comes from: Pan has an official production budget of $150 million and likely cost $125-135 million to market around the globe, but is currently on track to only gross around $150 million worldwide – meaning, WB should expect to make back around $135 million, in terms of its cut from ticket sales and home entertainment/TV deals.
That puts Pan on course for a $140-150 million loss, depending on how well it performs in additional markets over these forthcoming weeks – with China being one such place that could make a significant impact on Pan‘s box office returns (see: Terminator Genisys‘ China box office performance for a recent example). Nevertheless, it appears that Wright’s film is on its way to joining such releases as Jupiter Ascending, Seventh Son, Tomorrowland, and Fantastic Four on the list of costly tentpoles in 2015 that definitely failed to meet the studio expectations behind them (or, if you will, 2015’s “failed gambles”).
Wright, for his part, seems to be taking the critical failure of Pan well enough – at least, judging by his comments last week to EW, where he said that making the film helped him to reconnect to his adolescence (when he did magic tricks as “The Great Kazam”):
… So the process of making this movie was really about reconnecting with that bit of myself and actually telling him he was actually the coolest version of myself. So whenever I had a crazy idea, I kind of went for it.There was this f—ing great review in London from the Telegraph which described the film as “joyously uncool.” I thought I want that on my gravestone.
Pan‘s more asynchronous elements – such as the scene where characters sing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – and related “uncool” aspects of the film have also been the most discussed (for good and bad), while the film’s (arguably) generic approach to envisioning Peter Pan’s backstory has received the most criticism. Indeed, similar to Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer – another fairy tale re-imagining that performed badly at the box office – Joe Wright’s Pan seems to be another example that illustrates that moviegoers en masse will pass on a new twist on familiar folklore – when it doesn’t seem to bring anything that interesting to the table, in terms of its core ingredients.
All that being said: WB probably won’t sweat Pan‘s under-peformance too much, seeing as in 2016 the studio has scheduled two DC movies (Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad), Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the horror movie sequel The Conjuring 2 – among other films that should clean up the box office, rather than fall on their faces.
Pan is now playing in U.S. theaters.