Paramount's adaptation of the anime Ghost in the Shell struggled at the box office in its opening weekend and is set to cost the studio more than $60 million. In its first three days, the pricey action film starring Scarlett Johansson grossed a measly $18.6 million domestically, and didn't fare much better internationally. As of this writing, Ghost in the Shell has made just $72.5 million globally, a far cry from the $250 million Paramount and DreamWorks spent to produce and market it. What was looked at as a possible franchise starter is one of 2017's most notable bombs.
From the beginning, Ghost in the Shell was plagued by a whitewashing controversy due to Johansson landing the lead role. Paramount recently admitted that had something to do with the film's box office performance, though there are other factors to consider. For starters, the movie scored mixed reviews that didn't do much to enhance its commercial appeal. Many wrote it off as a clichéd piece of sci-fi that brought little new to the table. Also, the source material isn't the best known in some countries (including America), so there wasn't a sizable built-in audience chomping at the bit to see a live-action Ghost in the Shell. Some properties have proven to be critic proof (Twilight, Transformers), but that's because they already had a large following before the films.
Deadline is reporting that Ghost in the Shell's estimated final worldwide total is around $200 million. Its publicly reported production budget is $110 million, but there are those who believe it could actually be closer to $180 million. Should that turn out to be true, Paramount and DreamWorks are in the red for over $100 million when it's all said and done. Ghost in the Shell has yet to open in China and Japan (it debuts in those countries April 7), but that won't be much of a saving grace since it hasn't found much traction elsewhere. The studios are going to have to cut their losses.
For Paramount, following a rather disappointing 2016, their 2017 hasn't gotten off to the best start. Ghost in the Shell is already their second high-profile flop of the year, coming just a couple months after Monster Trucks made just $64.4 million worldwide. It's for this reason the studio is so keen on further expanding their lucrative Transformers franchise, which routinely hits the $1 billion mark. They also have Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 6 to look forward to, but it's safe to say Paramount could use more than just Optimus Prime and Ethan Hunt to consistently rely on. Paramount will be hoping this summer's Baywatch reboot can be a hit as well, possibly giving them another series.
In the meantime, a key lesson here for executives is to be a bit more fiscally responsible when it comes to green lighting genre pictures. There are only a few brands out there that truly warrant exorbitant budgets, such as Marvel, DC, and Star Wars. Unless something is an ironclad guaranteed smash, studios should think twice before moving forward on an expensive proposition like Ghost in the Shell. There's no shame in making a slate of mid-budget films that have a higher chance of turning a large profit.