As much as it may be lamented, film-making is a business, and the goal of studios is to make money. Every so often (perhaps increasingly often) movies fail in that goal during their theatrical runs, and are dubbed bombs. They could make that money back on home media, but the earnings from these revenue streams are far less advertised. Much like my last Box Office Autopsy post, I haven’t taken into account marketing costs, since they are not widely available. To come up with profit numbers, I divided worldwide grosses by two and subtracted the production budget.
There are two ways to judge which movies are the biggest bombs of 2016: absolute loss of capital, and failure to return on investment. Rather than cop out and make two lists, I decided to unscientifically average the two numbers to make one master list. Without further ado, the 10 biggest bombs of 2016 (so far). (Zoolander 2 is #11)
10. Mechanic: Resurrection
Box Office: $34M
Return on Investment: -$23M, -57.5%
Remember “The Mechanic”, that 2011 Jason Statham action vehicle? Apparently neither does anyone else. A sequel to a movie people don’t remember is probably not the best thing to sink $40M into. That said, Lionsgate only was responsible for domestic distribution, so their exposure is probably very limited on this one.
9. Cafe Society
Box Office: $20.3M
Return on Investment: -$19.9M, -66%
The latest Woody Allen movie has proven to be a poor investment for Lionsgate. Spending $30 million on a movie by a well-known director shouldn’t be as risky as this–although Woody Allen is obviously controversial for his personal life (people don’t rush to see movies directed by probable child rapists). This isn’t quite a career killer, but it will have to kill on home media to make another studios throw this much money at Allen.
8. The Brother’s Grimsby (aka Grimsby)
Box Office: $25.1 M
Return on Investment: -$22.5M, -64%
Sacha Baron Cohen’s career as a comedic leading man may well be coming to an end. This action comedy seemed like a tough sell from the beginning. The North American grosses failed to crack $7M. Overseas it did a little better, but not enough to save it.
7. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Box Office: $24.9M
Return on Investment: -$22.6M, -64%
Poor poor Tina Fey. After “Sister’s” disappointed critically and financially she followed up with her solo vehicle Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. It’s domestic failure is dwarfed by it’s failure overseas. I hope Paramount didn’t spend too much on marketing. At least she still has Kimmy Schmidt.
6. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
Box Office: $16M
Return on Investment: -$20M, -71%
The first movie on this list I actually saw, but I wish I hadn’t. I’m amazed at how boring a movie about Victorian zombies managed to be. This movie was too confused in marketing to have a meaningful selling point. Only fans of the source material turned out for this, and probably wish they hadn’t. Sometimes a good movie can bomb hard. This isn’t one of those times.
5. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Box Office: $4.5M
Return on Investment: -$15.5M, -77.5%
The worst per cent return of any wide release this year was Lonely Island vehicle Popstar. For every dollar in the budget, Universal lost 77.5 cents. I personally hate The Lonely Island and am very glad this movie failed. Andy Samberg ruined years of SNL for me, and no I’m not going to watch the show where he’s a cop.
4. The BFG
Box Office: $161M
Return on Investment: -$59.5M, -42.5%
Before the publication of Harry Potter, Roald Dahl was the most popular children’s book author in the world. Making a movie based on one of his books seems like a safe bet. However a $140M budget is never a safe bet. This is the first film on this list to have its box office exceed its budget, so I’d like to remind you that studios only see roughly half of box office receipts enter their coffers: the rest goes to the venues. Disney only lost about 43 cents per dollar on this one, but the nearly $60 M in absolute losses more than makes up for that relatively okay return. I imagine after marketing is factored in, this could be as much as $150M in the hole. Kids movies tend to do disproportionately well in the home market, but even so I don’t think Disney will be taking this kind of risk again soon.
3. Gods of Egypt
Box Office: $146M
Return on Investment: -$57M, -48%
Even from the early trailers, it seemed like a long shot for Gods of Egypt to be a hit domestically. Add in a white-washing controversy and it’s clear Lionsgate had a huge bomb on their hands. Any press is not always good press. As usually happens with these movies, the overseas numbers helped cushion the blow, but Lionsgate still flushed $100M+ down the drain once marketing is taken into account.
2. The Finest Hours
Box Office: $52M
Return on Investment: -$54M, -67.5%
Disney spent a surprising amount of money on the effects for this inspiration drama based on a true story. This kind of movie seems to be increasingly failing to take hold with audiences, and in this case it led to a massive loss of dough. I can’t imagine we’ll see another such film budgeted this high for a very long time.
Box Office: $53M
Return on Investment: -$73.5M, -73.5%
The latest in a string of flops from Paramount is the biggest bomb of the year in absolute dollar terms and second biggest for return on investment. It’s only been out three weeks, so the numbers will probably be a bit less damning by the end. However, it’s fading fast and likely to lose a large number of screens going forward, accelerating the decline. I wouldn’t count on overseas dollars to save this one either, since it’s already opened in most major markets. Sometimes you just bet on the wrong chariot.