Sometimes a bad movie panned by critics manages to generate a huge box office success. A main example of this is Michael Bay’s Transformers series. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen specifically has a Rotten Tomato score of 19%, but managed to gross $402 million. Despite the fact that many critics lambasted the Transformers, it was still relatively successful with audiences worldwide.
However, there are times when both critics and audiences share the same feelings towards a movie and it is deemed horrible by both parties. Sometimes a film is considered to be so terrible that the distributor recognizes its failure immediately and pulls out to save face from humiliation. Aside from terrible reviews, most films which had brief runs were pulled out due to external factors. These include poor marketing, bad publicity, as well as going over its budget during production.
This article will include the films with the shortest theatrical run in the United States exclusively, and will therefore not discuss any other films with short runs worldwide.
Here are 15 Movies So Terrible They Were Pulled From Theaters Right Away.
15 The Disappointments Room
The Disappointments Room is, indeed, a disappointing film. Relativity Media's horror film stars Kate Beckinsale, who plays a young architect seeking to begin a fresh start with her family. They buy a large run-down house which turns out to be haunted, with slamming doors, ghost sightings, and mysterious rooms.
The Disappointments Room fulfills every generic horror cliché and, in doing so, puts Scary Movie to shame. Unfortunately, unlike Scary Movie, this film isn't a parody. Reviewers criticized its lackluster storyline, poor direction, and incoherent film structure.
Relativity Media shelved it after the company filed bankruptcy. Rogue Pictures acquired the distribution rights, and The Disappointments Room was finally able to see daylight. It made $2.3 million against a $15 million budget. By its third week, 97% of theaters dropped the film, and The Disappointments Room never recovered. It lasted a total of seven weeks.
14 A Cure for Wellness
Ten years after finishing The Ring, Gore Verbinski made a surprise return to the horror genre with A Cure for Wellness. The Lovecraftian Gothic story follows an ambitious young executive who is sent to retrieve a company's CEO, who is residing at a remote wellness center in Switzerland.
Verbinski establishes an intriguing storyline with great visual aesthetics, but fails in execution. Behind the provocative imagery and setting, the story offers nothing new to the genre. Critics were mixed. Twentieth Century Fox Studios constructed several fake news sites as part of their viral ad campaign to promote the film, which created more confusion as readers read the fake news as truth.
Despite this ad campaign and the few curious moviegoers who were willing to see it, the film opened to $5 million against a $40 million budget. Theaters began to pull out after only a two-week stint, and only 88 theaters out of 2,000 screened the film. A Cure for Wellness remained running in theatres for a total of five weeks.
Glitter's wide PR coverage wasn't enough to save the film's box office bomb. The film made two mistakes: they allowed Mariah Carey to co-develop the film, and let her star in it. Carey's bland performance as well as the story's outlandish plot was just the tip of the film's demise.
The film and album tour took a major toll on Carey's health, which led to a them delaying the studio album until September 11, 2001. Yes, on 9/11 Carey released her album Glitter. The movie released ten days later.
PR disasters and negative reviews from critics drove the revenue down to the drain. The film premiered after the album's release and opened to a $2.4 million, ranking 11th at the box office. Sadly, Glitter never recovered its place and only lasted four weeks in theatres.
12 From Justin to Kelly
From Justice to Kelly is a true testament of just how far music executives are willing to milk the Hollywood cash cow. It was made after two American Idol finalists, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, decided to star together in a musical feature film. The film is basically only a marketing ploy, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Studios.
American Idol executives thought it would be a great idea to feature their talents on the big screen, since its reality show had been receiving high ratings. It appears that they didn't understand TV reality ratings don't translate into box office success. Bland music, terrible storytelling, and poor acting brought the film down to Razzie quality, and the Razzies later named it the Worst Musical Film.
The film earned $2.7 million on opening weekend but dropped to $625,000 in its second week, and eventually scraped a $23,000 on week three. By week three, almost all of the theaters pulled out with only 108 screens left showing it. It lasted only five weeks.
11 Alone in the Dark
Director Uwe Boll has made plenty of terrible films, but Alone in the Dark may have been the quintessential film that solidified Boll's infamy among the critics' circles.
Boll films are known to consist of laughably bad horror, as well as a total disregard of source material. Blair Erickson was the original screenwriter of Alone in the Dark and created the film's first drafts. However, these scripts were changed by Boll, who wanted the movie to be more action-packed. Erickson has made his antipathy for Boll's creative changes very clear.
The film's terrible reviews and negative buzz sent the film packing after only three weeks. Alone in the Dark was a box office bomb compared to Boll's previous film, House of the Dead, another film that barely broke even.
Gigli crawled into the rabbit hole the moment it was set with a $73 million budget. The film stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, who are stuck in an overly complicated mafia plot. Half of the movie was aimed to please "Bennifer" fans, while the other half consisted of an attempt to piece together a cohesive narrative, much like someone mixing cupcakes with flame-grilled steaks.
The movie inevitably bombed at the box office, and the studio executives pulled out in less than a month. Compared to the film's opening weekend of $3 million, Gigli made $678,640 in its second week, and by week three, made a mere $18, 702. Theaters didn't want to show more of Gigli on their screens, and quickly pulled out from circulation from further embarrassment after three weeks.
9 The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
To be fair, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure is a well-intentioned sing-along for young kids. However, that doesn't excuse the director's terrible idea to create a sing-a-long film on the big screen. Kenn Viselman, the distributor of the Teletubbies, was inspired by a screening of Tyler Perry's Medea Goes to Jail. After witnessing audience members shouting advice to the characters, Viselman decided to create a film that encouraged moviegoers to get up from their seats and act as rambunctious kids.
One young viewer sent New York Times a review of the film. It can be concluded that many young children thought it was "for babies," while younger children appeared to be bored of the movie. Theaters quickly pulled out after its one week run, with only eight theaters willing to keep it running. Its $20 million budget would have funded a TV series on PBS. Oogieloves made $1.1 million, and ultimately lasted just over three weeks.
8 Jem and the Holograms
Jem and the Holograms was a mockery of the original cartoon, and fans had every right to call it out on its atrocity. The film was meant to be a reboot of the TV series, except it threw away everything beloved in the show, and replaced it with a '90s cliché plot line.
What was far more insidious was the director's deceptive marketing ploy to use celebrities and fans’ comments about the original Jem to praise the new live-action character. Critics and fans condemned it as one of the worst film adaptations of 2015. It never made back its budget of $5 million.
The film had the worst opening weekend for a wide release, ranking 15 in the box office and was pulled by the end of week two for its terrible gross revenue.
Critics expected The Godfather star Al Pacino to bring a stellar performance to Revolution, a British drama based on the Revolutionary War. Pacino's plays a fur trapper who gets entangled with the war after his son gets drafted into the army. The studios attempted to construct a war epic, with gorgeous cinematography and grand battles. It had a lot of potential, but just wasn't what fans and critics had hoped. Revolution was later nominated for three Razzie Awards.
The production company didn't have much to back on and ran on a limited release. The film only made $358,574 on its theatrical run and was a commercial flop. Revolution pulled out in less than three weeks, already knowing that it would never recover its $20 million budget. Disappointed, Pacino took a four-year hiatus from filming after this flop.
Collide had the misfortune of being hastily set up for a quick run in hopes of earning a few million dollars. Relativity Media was the original distributor until the company filed bankruptcy. The producers were forced to put it on the market again. Open Road Films acquired distribution rights and gave it a wide release, but pushed the released date back a few of times, eventually settling on a date nearly three years later.
Felicity Jones, Nicholas Hoult, and Anthony Hopkins couldn’t save the film from its worst opening weekend, which only brought in $1.5 million. By its second week more than half of the theaters had pulled out, and it had earned a shocking $173,000. Critics also panned the film for its mediocre pacing and dialogue. Collide's tagline speaks for itself: "How Far Would You Go for the One You Love?" Apparently only two weeks.
5 Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a typical slasher film. The movie’s premise is simple: a psychopath with PTSD goes on a murder spree dressed up as Santa Claus. However, the PTA was offended by the film’s violence and demanded the film’s removal.
Movie reviewer Siskel (from Siskel & Ebert) denounced the production crew. However, bad press is good press, and curious onlookers wanted to take a peek at the scandalous film that was condemned by the public.
The film made $2 million during its one week run, and is the only film on this list that was able to make a profit before it was pulled out from theaters due to bad press. Eventually, the negative comments waned, and the formerly censored Silent Night, Deadly Night would later create a film franchise. This film series eventually gained a cult following, and has been ingrained firmly in the slasher genre ever since.
4 Heaven’s Gate
Heaven’s Gate had elements of a Hollywood nightmare. The film was a supposed to be a western epic, centered on the Johnson County War in Wyoming. Michael Cimino, who had just secured an Oscar win for The Deer Hunter, was set to direct, and United Artists gave the auteur free reign with a $11.5 million budget.
What could possibly go wrong? Everything. From pre- to post-production, Heaven’s Gate had multiple reshoots and edits. John Hurst, while waiting in production, completed The Elephant Man with David Lynch. By the time the film completed filming, the cost quadrupled to $44 million. Cimino intended to show a final cut that was five hours long, which nearly got him fired.
The film earned $3.5 million and ran in theaters for a week. Heaven’s Gate impacted Hollywood’s infrastructure − the film industry restricted the auteur role and relied on blockbuster films for revenue.
Delgo began with Marc Adler's ambition to create an animated film that would rival Disney. However, Delgo became the lowest grossing animated movie on record. Adler founded the studio and posted film updates during the animation process as part of their PR program. Unfortunately, this was the only source of publicity for the film.
It was no surprise that the film performed poorly on opening week, earning $443,901 domestically on a wide release. Delgo won the Anima Mundi award for Best Animated Feature in Brazil, but was met with an onslaught of critics who trashed the film for its poor quality. Though Delgo had the potential to an epic fantasy, or so the creators intended, it turned out to be an epic failure. The film was pulled out from theaters after just one week.
Postal was filmmaker Uwe Boll's attempt at creating a political satire, and like the rest of his films, it was bad. It was so bad that it made Gigli look like a masterpiece. The film was met with intense scrutiny and had several disputes with the theaters, who flatly refused to distribute the film.
The director’s name was enough to scare many theaters away, but the subject matter was what took the cake. Postal mocked the 9/11 hijacked scene and included a scene which showed a fictional George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden as best friends.
Only twenty-one screens across the country showed Postal for a mere week. At the time, Boll mentioned a possibility of a sequel, but this never came to fruition.
1 United Passions
United Passions has the shortest theatrical run of only three days. The film was a biopic about the FIFA's current (now former) executives and their tribulations, which would have been interesting if the film focused on the FIFA scandal. Prior its release, FIFA was under investigation by the FBI. FIFA had multiple corruption scandals brought to light affiliated with sponsorship and kickbacks (John Oliver did a fantastic job reporting the scandal).
The film only managed to gross a meager $918. United Passions has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics called out the movie bad attempt at propaganda: it painted the executives who were under suspicion of corruption as the heroes. The film stained director Frederic Auburtin’s career, who openly admitted the film was a disaster and told Hollywood Reporter: “now I’m seen as bad as the guy who brought AIDs to Africa or the guy who caused the financial crisis.”
Have you had the chance to watch any of these terrible films that were pulled from theaters? Let us hear it in the comments.
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