It may seem like it’s all sweetness and light in Hollywood, but the stakes for success are incredibly high, with millions of dollars and fragile reputations on the line. Few things drive that point home like a summary of box office disasters. After all, numbers don’t lie.
Considering that the budgets for most major American films exceed the GDP of many fledgling nations, the final tally for a thundering dud can be startling, which is why the recent roundup of domestic stinkers from 2011 by trade publication the Hollywood Reporter is such a hot read. It feels like comeuppance in the face of Hollywood arrogance and avarice.
As the site notes, “2011 [saw] a troubling dip in moviegoing for much of the year. There were several high-profile flops that lost tens of millions, including Mars Needs Moms and Cowboys & Aliens. After several record-breaking years, the domestic box revenues are running 4 percent behind 2010 levels.”
Clearly, the advent of 3D wasn’t the industry lifesaver some predicted, though there’s little doubt that most of the films on the list had multiple problems beyond just a lack of technological bells and whistles. (See: dodgy remakes, tired chick flicks and almost anything starring Jack Black.)
So just how much cash did the biggest losers lose? Here’s a partial snapshot assembled by THR:
Mars Needs Moms Studio: Disney Release Date: March 11, 2011 Budget: $150 million Worldwide Gross: $39 million
The Rum Diary Studio: GK Films Stars: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart Release Date: Oct. 28, 2011 Budget: $45 million Worldwide Gross: $21.6 million
Cowboys & Aliens Studio: DreamWorks/Universal Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford Release Date: July 29, 2011 Budget: $163 million Worldwide Gross: $178.8
Conan the Barbarian Studio: Lionsgate Stars: Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan Release Date: Aug. 19 Budget: $90 million Wordwide Gross: $48.8 million
The Big Year Studio: 20th Century Fox Stars: Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson Release Date: Oct. 14, 2011 Budget: $41 million Worldwide Gross: $7.4 million
Anonymous Studio: Sony (U.S., most foreign territories) Stars: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis Release Date: Oct. 28, 2011 Budget: $30 million Worldwide Gross: $14.8 million
At the risk of stating the obvious – that starvation in sub-Saharan Africa could effectively be lessened with just the budget allotted to Cowboys & Aliens – these figures are a powerful reminder that audiences can still vote with their wallets when it comes to dubious entertainment.
It was a real pleasure seeing the calamity that is New Year’s Eve on this list. I mean really, what were they thinking? Hollywood might act as though the masses are indiscriminate but at the end of the day, we really can make or break it. Kind of makes you feel powerful, huh? Read the full list here.