In my previous article on the top three summer blockbusters of 2013, I also touched on the fact that this summer seems to have had a higher than normal amount of big budget flops as well. One of the biggest factors that has led to this is the fact that there were an astounding eighteen films this summer that cost more than $100 million to make, before taking into account marketing costs.
Of those eighteen films, only eleven made more than $100 million at the North American box office, which is still the most critical component of gauging how well a film does, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned. While most of the movies made enough money internationally to seem respectable, it is in no way enough to warrant the number of films that we ended up with this summer.
Another critical aspect of the summer was that, between May and the end of July, there were four films aimed at families that all cost over $100 million to produce and came out on the heels of each other. Only two of these films made back over $100 million in North America, one of them just so. For the record, the big winner for family movies this summer cost less than $80 million to produce.
Hollywood produced far too many expensive films for this year and scheduled way too many of them into the four month window of the summer season, and for the most part, audiences chose to be wary with the dollars and stayed away from films that looked similar to others and others that suffered mainly from poor scheduling. With not a lot of “throw away” weekends this summer, some films were destined for failure.
That being said, here are my candidates for biggest flops of the 2013 summer season.
After Earth – Estimated Cost $130 Million, Brought In $60 Million
Coming into 2013, there might not have been a more bankable movie star in the world than Will Smith. His films routinely made over $100 million in the North American box office and that is a wide range of roles, but primarily taking into account films in the Sci-Fi genre, so many thought that ‘After Earth’ would be right in his wheelhouse. Coupled with that was the great first leading role that his son, Jaden Smith, brought forward in the remake of ‘The Karate Kid’, itself having a box office of $176 million in 2010.
That being said, the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan continues his decline in bringing audiences to the theatre, and a film featuring a Will Smith in a supporting role pushing his son as a bonafide star seems to have done the exact opposite.
The main thing with ‘After Earth’ is that the trailer managed to completely push me away from the film, to the point that I actively avoided it at the box office, and with a North American final tally of just over $60 million dollars, this was clearly the case for many other movie goers as well.
The Lone Ranger – Estimated Cost $215 million, Brought In $88 Million
This is a film that I dearly wanted to love, and I get the feeling that I am not the only one that wanted to do that as well, but due to a series of events, ‘The Lone Ranger’ will go down as yet another box office bomb from Walt Disney Studios. Following on the heels of 2012’s ‘John Carter’ and 2010’s ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ and ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, all of which performed well under expectations, Disney was clearly hoping for big things with ‘The Lone Ranger’.
With Disney desperate for a hit, they turned to frequent collaborators Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp to make things right. Alas, this did not turn into another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and with a convoluted presentation, ‘The Lone Ranger’ could not be saved by Depp’s on-screen antics. In fact, Depp may have been one of the biggest impediments to the possible success of this film.
My biggest issue with ‘The Lone Ranger’ was the way that the story was told. The scenes in a 1930’s Wild West show completely killed any momentum that the film managed to build and seeing Johnny Depp in some wrinkly skin suit was just not needed.
As for the actual Wild West part, with the Lone Ranger character, you could tell that these scenes could have been great, and that is perhaps the most disheartening thing, you can see that this could have been an awesome film, but the fact that it wasn’t all set during that time period, and that it took too long of a time for Armie Hammer to put on the mask definitely is a deterrent. Big budget films need positive word of mouth and repeat viewings, and ‘The Lone Ranger’ never got either of those to help it out.
R.I.P.D. – Estimated Cost $130, Brought In $33 Million
‘R.I.P.D.’ is a prime example of how Hollywood goes through phases of looking to a certain source or other form of entertainment for ideas for films, and regardless of how similar they may be to other films or ideas, or how well it will translate to the screen or not, will ride that source into the ground until they kill it, and ‘R.I.P.D.’ could be that nail in the coffin for lesser known graphic novel adaptations.
Personally, I have never walked out of a film that I have seen in the theatre, but ‘R.I.P.D.’ almost was the first, and that is a real shame, as I am a fan of both Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. That being said, neither of them were strong enough, and the concept was far too mismatched to work on the big screen, and this film also wasted an appearance from Kevin Bacon as well, and that really is a shame.
Scheduled to open against three other nationwide releases, including an animated film featuring Reynolds as the lead voice, one of the four films was bound to struggle, and ‘R.I.P.D.’ got the worst of it. This film is so bad that I can not recommend it at all, even when it hits Netflix later this year.
In the end, Hollywood needs to adjust a couple of things in how the summer blockbuster season works. Scheduling movies too close together, and trying to finance too many movies into money makers needs to stop. What Hollywood will end up doing is focusing more on sequels and less on original content instead of having more restrained budgets on original content.
For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.