Part of the reason we're in a new Golden Age of television is because Hollywood's unleashed a sortie of box-office bombs in recent years.
It's ugly out there, and the studios with the most money to throw around are guilty of some of the worst offenses. Fox proved superhero films aren't invincible by taking an $81 million to $101 million hit on a reboot of Marvel's "Fantastic Four" in 2015. Universal figured that out as well after its non-Marvel, non-D.C. Comics release "R.I.P.D." lost between $94 million and $118 million in 2013.Sony flat-out couldn't get anyone to care about the Reese Witherspoon/Owen Wilson/Paul Rudd/Jack Nicholson dramedy "How Do You Know ," which took an $83 million to $115 million bath around Christmas 2010. It also couldn't wrap its mind around computer animation or a post-Shrek fairy-tale premise after striking out to the tune of $88 million to $109 million with 2013's "Jack the Giant Slayer" and dropping another $94 million to $152 million on 2015's "Pan ."
Even Disney has been missing big amid its comic-book and animation hits. The losses it took on 2012's "John Carter" ($127 million to $209 million -- not counting a lost sci-fi franchise), 2013's "The Lone Ranger" ($98 million to $195 million) and 2015's "Tomorrowland" ($77 million to $152 million) have become stuff of industry legend. So why has their been such a dense carpet-bombing of box-office disasters within the last 20 years or so? Because the stakes have become that much higher.
During the internet era, the motion picture industry has watched the tickets sold to its films peak at more than 1.57 billion in 2002 before plummeting to 1.27 billion in 2014. Though ticket sales rose to 1.31 billion last year, that's still less than the number sold in 1996. Meanwhile, the average price of a ticket during that 20-year stretch has increased from $4.42 to nearly $9.
The number of movie screens in the U.S. has nearly doubled since that time, but the National Association of Theater Owners says the nationwide theater count has shrunk from 7,800 to 5,800. Meanwhile, a glut of television options and the advent of first-run streaming through Netflix (NFLX) , Amazon (AMZN) , Walmart's (WMT) Vudu and other outlets is putting a squeeze on the theaters that remain. When studios bet big and go broad to bring in the largest receipts possible -- especially during summer blockbuster season -- that makes the fallout from box-office bombs even bigger.
With help from the folks at Box Office Mojo, we've combed through the archives and found the ten biggest box-office bombs in recent summer-movie history. If you don't remember some of them, don't worry: The rest of the country doesn't either.
Date released: Aug. 27, 1999
Budget: $160 million
Worldwide box-office take: $61.7 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $99 million to $185 million
This was one rancid stew. Take Antonio Banderas at the peak of his leading-man prowess. Add a screenplay based on a book by Michael Crichton -- who was still basking in residual "Jurassic Park" heat -- and throw in "Die Hard" director John McTiernan and what do you get? A Beowulf-based period piece that nobody asked for, that forced cast member Omar Sharif into semi-retirement and that now serves as a bit of bar trivia because of the other film released that week: "The Sixth Sense."
Date released: May 9, 1997
Budget: $85 million
Worldwide box-office take: $35.7 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $100 million
Sure, when you put Robin William and Billy Crystal on the late-night talk show circuit for this film before it opens, it seems like a great idea. But when it's 1997 and you realize that Williams is firmly in his "overwhelmed dad" phase ("Hook," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "RV"), Crystal is transitioning into family fare ("City Slickers," "Analyze This," "Monsters Inc.") and nobody knows who Natassja Kinski is anymore (ask your parents to dig in the attic for a poster), it's clear why this rehash of a better-executed French film was destined for failure.
Date released: June 4, 2002
Budget: $115 million
Worldwide box-office take: $77.6 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $101 million to $108 million
For every "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" that came out during this window of World War II nostalgia, there was "Hart's War," "U-571," "Enemy at the Gates" and this. Directed by John Woo, this is chock full of action, tension and big explosions, but would have been better served by ditching Nic Cage's character completely and focusing on Navajo code talkers. Oh, and it would have helped if anyone in this production cracked a history book and gave the Navajo their due instead of fictionalizing their contributions and filtering them through Cage's perspective.
Date released: June 22, 2007
Budget: $175 million
Worldwide box-office take: $173.4 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $102 million
Know what's worse than a sequel that waits half a decade to arrive? One that ditches the main character for someone who's in the same profession, but with an entirely different set of skills. Steve Carell is a fine comedic actor, but not in the same manner as Jim Carrey -- who basically carried 2003's "Bruce Almighty." Then again, this film started out as a straight telling of the Biblical story of Noah, his ark and the Great Flood and was re-pitched as a "Bruce Almighty" sequel. That's a bit awkward and Carrey wanted no part of it. Carell should have declined as well, if only to avoid both the clunky script that minimized any impact he may have had.
Date released: May 12, 2000
Budget: $73 million
Worldwide box-office take: $29.7 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $102 million
There are some folks who'll walk past their regional Scientology center, chat with the vested faithful and even get into some of the more nuanced aspects of their faith. There are others who will simply wonder how a sci-fi author started a religion, say something about Tom Cruise, shrug and be on their way. Judging by the reaction to this John Travolta-fronted nightmare, we're pleased to report that the world is generally populated by those latter folks.
Date released: July 29, 2005
Budget: $135 million
Worldwide box-office take: $76.9 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $118 million
The things we learned from "Stealth": 1. Josh Lucas isn't a leading man. 2. Interest in stealth technology peaked roughly 14 years earlier. 2. This was to Jaime Foxx what "Catwoman" was to Halle Berry -- a nice post-Oscar payday. 3. The U.S. military has no problem just lending out the US.S. Abraham Lincoln, Nimitz and Carl Vinson to any studio exec with a suitcase full of cash. 4. Director Rob Cohen struck gold with "XXX" and "The Fast and the Furious," but if he wanted this to be his "Top Gun" or "Iron Eagle," he should have called in a favor from Vin Diesel.
Date released: July 11, 2001
Budget: $127 million
Worldwide box-office take: $85.1 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $127 million
Gamers love themselves a layered, multigenerational role-playing game. What they don't love are movies based around those same video games, no matter how much the digital rendering makes it look like hair is actually blowing in the wind. Columbia sprung for the voices of Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods,Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi, but most of the budget went into 960 workstations built to render 141,964 computer-animated frames. About 200 staffers and four years later, the effects received far more praise than the film itself. In fairness, the Sony-backed studio would've been better off producing this as a PlayStation game.
Date released: June 16, 2000
Budget: $100 million
Worldwide box-office take: $7.1 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $128 million
Moon colonization, cloning... Jay Mohr. In a film that answers the question "What would Han Solo look like with a terrible script and no Star Wars franchise to prop him up?" Eddie Murphy takes a stab at the sci-fi genre and comes away with one of the most incomprehensible box office bombs of all time. What Bruce Willis and Hudson Hawk did to the gangster genre, Murphy and "Pluto Nash" do to sci-fi... but with gangsters and an uncredited Alec Baldwin. Even the roughly $25 million the film made during its DVD release wasn't enough to recoup even a fifth of the budget. Murphy himself now makes jokes at Pluto's expense.
Date released: June 16, 2000
Budget: $75 million
Worldwide box-office take: $36.75 million
Estimated loss (adjusted for inflation): $139 million
To children of the '80s, Disney was that company that kept re-releasing old cartoons and Don Bluth was the equivalent of Pixar. A former Disney animator, Bluth left to open his own studio in the '80s and created "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tail," "The Land Before Time" and "All Dogs Go To Heaven." Considering that Disney was releasing middling fare like "The Fox and The Hound," "The Black Cauldron," "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Oliver and Company" at the time, Bluth dominated the animated film industry. However, just after "All Dogs Go To Heaven" was released in 1989, Disney responded with "The Little Mermaid." The film that began the Disney renaissance and launched a decade of hit films including "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "Beauty and The Beast." By the time "Titan A.E." released in 2000, Pixar had already released two "Toy Story" films and "A Bug's Life." Despite using the voices of Matt Damon, John Leguizamo, Drew Barrymore and Nathan Lane, "Titan A.E." and its mix of computer and standard cell-shading animation just couldn't capture imaginations the way an animated space adventure like "Wall-E" would a few years later.
Date released: May 12, 2017
Budget: $175 million
Worldwide box-office take: $140.3 million
Estimated loss: $150 million
Just because viewers like the swords and dragons in Game of Thrones doesn't mean they want you to put the guy from "Sons of Anarchy" in a King Arthur movie and tread a bunch of old narrative ground. Warner Brothers discovered this the hard way earlier this summer as this film, which the studio had held onto for nearly a year after bumping it from its original 2016 release date, moved absolutely no one to go to the theater. Not only did Warner Brothers spend an ill-advised $175 million on an idea it didn't have to buy the rights to, but it had director Guy Ritchie slated to make five more films of this ilk. We get the feeling that won't happen.