2015 was a great year for movie fans. From the casual person who watches five movies a year in theaters, to the hardcore cinephile who sits through countless hours of movies, there was something for everyone to enjoy. There were some unsurprising hits, such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Inside Out, and a few bad movies, such as Jem and the Holograms, which turned out exactly how most people predicted they might.
At the beginning of the year we took a look at eleven movies we thought had the biggest risk at making their money back - The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2015. That isn't to say we thought these movies would be bad, but rather, there was some factor involved, whether it be the story, actors or director, that added significant financial risk to the studio producing it. Now that the year is over, it's time to look back on our initial assessments to see exactly how these films fared at the box office.
NOTE: All of the budget and box office information mentioned in this article is pulled from Box Office Mojo and The Numbers. While there’s no hard and fast rule to determine a film’s marketing budget, it’s a widely accepted that, on average, 50% of a film’s production budget should be tacked on to cover marketing costs.
Seventh Son felt like one of those movies that was doomed from the very beginning. Not only did the distribution studio change hands from Warner Bros to Universal Studios (something that doesn't happen often with good films in Hollywood) and the release date get pushed back several times, but Legendary Pictures also had to give $5 million to defunct SFX house Rhythm and Hues Studios just to get the special effects completed on the movie.
Combine all that with a talented and seasoned cast (Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore) that seems to be "phoning in" their performances (Ben Barnes notwithstanding), and it's easy to see why audiences just were all that interested in Seventh Son.
Where to begin on this convoluted mess of a space opera when discussing its ultimate box office failure? We could point to Eddie Redmayne's over-the-top performance as the Balem Abrasax (the movie's main villain), or Channing Tatum's half-dog character, Caine Wise, with his pointy ears and rocket boots, or perhaps it was Mila Kunis cleaning toilets as a doe-eyed, space princess that served as the reason why this movie flopped.
Truthfully, Warner Bros has no one to blame for their financial loss but themselves for giving the Wachowskis an ungodly sum to make a very silly sci-fi movie. $184 million at the box office would have been impressive for the film had the studio not given them over $250 million to make it.
Jurassic World being on this list must have been oversight, because everyone knew the long-awaited fourth installment of the iconic dinosaur franchise would be a worldwide phenomenon grossing over a billion and a half dollars at the global box office...right? It had been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park film and it appears that audiences haven't lost interest in watching CGI dinosaurs devour hapless humans fleeing in fear.
It doesn't hurt that fan-favorite Chris Pratt was the leading man and the movie surely received a slight bump in popularity after his success in Guardians of the Galaxy. Regardless, Jurassic World remains on top of the box office food chain in 2015, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the potential to eclipse that mark by year's-end.
By all accounts, Terminator: Genisys should have been a box office failure. The trailer gave away the plot twist, it starred an aging Arnold Schwarzenegger, the CG looked sub-par and the movie took everything audiences knew about time travel and basically ignored it. But somehow the movie, while flopping hard domestically, managed to connect with global audiences to the tune of over $300 million in gross box office returns.
While critics across the board rightfully panned the movie for its pacing, dialog, acting and horrible story, that wouldn't keep it from becoming this year's Transformers 4 - proving that poor critical reception doesn't necessarily affect what an audience is willing to pay to watch.
Admittedly, we were stretching a bit in January by including Ant-Man on this list, but there was cautious skepticism to think Marvel couldn't bottle lightning twice. However, it would appear the success of Guardians of the Galaxy wasn't a fluke and Marvel really can turn any of its comic properties, no matter how small (pun intended), into successful movie adaptations. Paul Rudd's comedic chops are perfect for the small-time criminal-turned-hero Scott Lang and veteran actor Michael Douglas brings some much-needed credibility to the film.
It would have been nice to see Evangeline Lilly serve a bigger role in the testosterone-laced story but she'll get plenty of screen time in the already-announced sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, in a couple of years.
This result is one that didn't shock too many people. The argument can be made that preconceived notions and prejudices based on stories of studio meddling and the on-set antics of director Josh Trank adversely affected the film's box office performance, but, truthfully, it was just a mess of a film from beginning to end. Instead of giving the characters their powers early on, the movie gives us an origin story behind the friendship between Reed Richards and Ben Grimm that dates back to grade school. We don't get to see any superpowers until halfway through the second act and by then, the story had become so weighted down by its own ineptitude that there was no saving it. The less than stellar box office results are the main reason why Fox put the brakes on the Fantastic Four sequel.
Note: If anyone comments that this movie failed because Johnny Storm "was black," you're ignorant and your comment will be deleted.
We felt The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a risk-filled endeavor because it was adapting a television show that hasn't been in popular culture for more than fifty years - unfortunately, it turns out we were right. Director Guy Ritchie has produced one of the best movies that almost no one watched in theaters this year and that's a real shame. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer turn in fun, brilliant performances as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin respectfully, creating a partnership that would have been enjoyable to watch develop over the course of several films. Alicia Vikander rounds out the trio by giving a flirtatious performance as Gaby Teller.
Ultimately, audiences just weren't interested in seeing a movie about characters they knew little-to-nothing about, no matter how intriguing the characters or how beautiful the set and costume designs were. Don't let the box office results deter you from watching this movie, though. It's well worth your time to check it out as a rental.
At first glance, it appeared that Hitman: Agent 47 had the opportunity to change the opinion that all video game movie adaptations are a waste of time - that thinking was way off base. While the movie managed to squeak out a modest profit overall and was technically worth the risk, we're sure the studio was expecting far more from their sequel starring Rupert Friend (Boy in the Striped Pajamas), Hannah Ware (Oldboy) and Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Into the Darkness).
Director Aleksander Bach does the best he can for his directorial debut (seriously, this is the only film credit on his IMDb page) but there's not much he can do with weak script Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) has handed him - which doesn't bode for for Woods' upcoming video game movie adaptation Kane & Lynch.
The Martian is one of those novel movie adaptations that could have been a whimper at the box office due to the general audience's lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Fortunately, The Martian turned out to be both a critical darling and box office smash, sitting in the Top Ten for nine straight weeks, of which it held the number one spot four times.
Director Ridley Scott, writer Drew Goddard and actor Matt Damon have managed to bring Andy Weir's sci-fi novel, the story of one astronaut's struggle to survive on Mars, to life in a way that soundly resonated with audiences - and rightfully so. The movie is one of our favorites in 2015 and the fall movie season was better because it was there.
After two woefully under-performing showings (this theatrical release and the NBC live musical TV special), it would appear that it's past time for The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up to join all of the adults in Grown Up Land. With very few exceptions, most movies do not need a prequel to explain a character's origins and this rings doubly true in regards to the beloved characters J .M. Barrie introduced to the world in 1902.
It would be one thing if Barrie had created a backstory for his characters and Hollywood was simply adapting it, but for Pan, writer Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) penned a script for an entirely new origin story, telling the adventures of Peter and Hook battling the evil Blackbeard (played by an over-the-top Hugh Jackman.) The movie was a solid flop across the board with critics and audiences alike and most will most likely never see black, even with DVD/Blu-ray sales.
Crimson Peak was on the top of just about every horror movie buff's "Must Watch" list this year - and for good reason. Director/writer Guillermo del Toro is highly praised for his ability to create imaginative monsters then stick them into stories set against beautiful, and often, awe inspiring backdrops. All the trailers and promotional materials hinted that Crimson Peak would be more of the same...and then audience's started watching the movie.
This movie isn't so much a ghost story (as it was marketed), as it is a story with ghosts in it (to borrow a line from the film). Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska work well together but Charlie Hunnam (in his second outing with del Toro) has a hard time shaking his Jax persona from the Sons of Anarchy television series. As is standard with del Toro, everything in the movie is beautiful to look at and the Gothic, Victorian setting is gorgeous throughout. The story isn't even that bad, but the movie just couldn't overcome how the marketing to the masses was mishandled.
Some of these big-budget movies definitely needed to be on this list as they came with a significant amount of risk, while others such as Jurassic World, proved the studios behind them never had anything to worry about at all. Did you see any of these movies this year and do you agree with our assessments? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.
Also, be sure to check back in January for our look at the Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2016.