Early Box Office Bombs Of 2008

The movie business is exactly that… a business. It takes HUGE amounts of money to put together and market one of these movies, and as such, those who invest that much money NEED to see a profit on that investment, or they go broke :P

Some people think box office numbers are meaningless and pointless… but they couldn’t be more 100% wrong. Box Office doesn’t just reflect money… it shows us public interest… repeat viewing dollars can reflect quality (not opening weekend)… it shows us if a marketing plan did its job to entice people to see it or if people were into seeing it in the first place. Box Office is VERY important and tells us a lot about the not only the movie, but the state of the movie world at any given time.

So when a film bombs, it’s fun to discuss WHY it bombed. Unpopular actor? Bad marketing? Stupid premise? Out of date topic? There are 1000 different possible answers. So here are some of the most notable bombs of 2008 so far, and a quick thought or two as to why I think it flopped. Keep in mind… all these films below got a wide release.

REDBELT
Total Box Office – $2 Million

Two major factors to this insane bomb. First of all the marketing was TERRIBLE. It told you NOTHING about the plot… NOTHING. Other than the fact that you knew Mixed Martial Arts was a part of it, you knew nothing else… how is that supposed to get people’s attention? Also, the main audience was going to be MMA fans. But they didn’t taylor their marketing well enough… and MMA fans generally hated the movie because of how it misrepresents the sport… and thus bad word of mouth shot the the MMA community like wild fire and most people wouldn’t give it a chance. The movie basically told MMA fans that their entire sport is corrupt. That’s like marketing a Sex and the City movie to women and then using the movie to say “All women everywhere are total whores”. Not a good idea.

CHARLIE BARTLETT
Total Box Office – $4 Million

I honestly can’t tell you why this one just didn’t work. Robert Downey Jr. A fairly reasonable and fairly good marketing campaign. The movie looked like it might be ok… certainly it wasn’t going to be a blockbuster… but the movie made less than half of what they spent on the marketing alone. Any theories you have about why this movie bombed so badly would be welcome.

DECEPTION
Total Box Office – $4.5 Million

How on earth do you put out a wise release movie with Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams as your leads and only make $4.5 million?!?!?! Well… maybe you keep the damn movie a secret until it’s only 2 weeks away from release. If I had a nickel for everytime I was in a movie theater and walked past a poster for the film only to over hear various people saying “I’ve never heard of it” I’d have enough to buy dinner.

WITLESS PROTECTION
Total Box Office – $4 Million

Because it’s Larry the Cable guy. Nothing else needs be said.

RUN FATBOY RUN
Total Box Office – $6 Million

First of all it was a terrible title. Second of all it had Thandie Newton in it who just can’t act. But most importantly and sadly, as GREAT as Simon Pegg is, he just does not have the name recognition yet to carry a film at the box office, especially separated from team WRIGHT/PEGG/FROST. The film was also a bit of a let down… which I’m sure hurt when word of mouth got out.

SPEED RACER
Total Box Office – $40 Million

When all was said and done, it cost just under $150 million to make and market this movie. A movie that I never thought for one minute had the built in audience or fan base to justify a project like this one. People said I was crazy for thinking that… yeah well… $40 million at the box office says differently. Oh, and the movie itself was horrible so that didn’t help matters much either.

IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE
Total Box Office – $5 Million

Ummm… gee… what could have possibly caused such a bomb? Oh that’s right: UWE BOLL (too bad, i honestly think the dude rules… just can’t seem to direct though)

Those are the most notable and floptastic films of the year so far. It’ll be interesting to see what other films get added to this list by the end of the year. As a side note, i guarantee you the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight” won’t make over $30 million.

Ok I was kidding about that last part. :P

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34 thoughts on “Early Box Office Bombs Of 2008

  1. Whuh? I would have to strongly disagree on everything you said there, especially the ending, which was what took it from good movie to classic. It seems like it’s going to turn into a more traditional tournament movie, then you think it’s going to abandon the tournament altogether, then he proves that “there is no situation you cannot escape from” when all of the themes of the movie finally connect and he finds a way for the meaning of martial arts to triumph over the business and the bullshit. And even he can’t believe it. Absolutely perfect, so I would have to counter that “one of the worst endings in film history” is one of the most absurd declarations in hyperbole history.

    Your opinions never fail to make me spit my drink out and do a double take. But I’m glad you have a take on the movie and not just the finance. Good for you. (Sorry, I must’ve missed your review.)

  2. Redbest was total shit. Bad dialog (his is usually MUCH better), unbelievable ridiculous situations and scenarios, one of the worst endings in film history. Total pile of shit.

  3. I don’t get why you’re talking shit on REDBELT. Did somebody tell you it was gonna be SPIDER-MAN? It’s a David Mamet movie. Based on the figures you give it sounds like it’s not profitable yet, but it wasn’t supposed to be some box office juggernaut. Did you expect SPARTAN to be BOURNE ULTIMATUM? Of course not. This is a guy who has his niche, they are small art movies for a certain small audience. In this case the plot involves competitive martial arts so they advertised it to that audience, but that was clearly a case of the marketing people trying to cash-in on a silly angle. The movie is not designed for that audience.

    I know you’re fascinated with counting up somebody’s money, but if you’re also interested in movies you should check this one out because it’s one of the best of the year so far. It’s a great story about a code of honor triumphing over people who are only after money, which is why it’s ironic that you’re discussing it like this. Chewitel Eijiofor gives ones of his best performances yet, still intelligent and sensitive but this time also convincing as a total fuckin badass! It’s definitely not for everybody, but for those who would seek it out it will most likely be worth it. I know about 5 people who saw it and all of them loved it, some even more than I did.

    I like David Mamet, but this will be his first movie that I’ll buy on DVD. It will make a good double feature with GHOST DOG. Nobody will give a shit that it was a “bomb” five or ten years from now when they’re still watching it and quoting it, yelling “improve the position!” and “there’s always an escape!” at their buddies.

  4. So when a film bombs, it’s fun to discuss WHY it bombed. Unpopular actor? Bad marketing? Stupid premise? Out of date topic? There are 1000 different possible answers. So here are some of the most notable bombs of 2008 so far, and a quick thought or two as to why I think it flopped. Keep in mind… all these films below got a wide release.

    http://yourfreemoviedownloads.com

  5. Dungeon Siege was barely marketed. Hardly saw commercials for it, and the premise looked stupid. No surprise that it bombed.

    I think TDK will do well overseas. The whole Heath Ledger thing, as sad and as sick as this is to say, is free advertising for this movie. Every news show will be covering this movie due to the Heath Factor, which will drive up interest in seeing this. It’s already working. Take my little sis. She did not like Batman Begins. At ALL. Had no real urge to see TDK and mocked me for being so pumped for it. A little while after Heath died, she asked me when I was gonna see TDK in IMAX so she could tag along. I don’t think it’ll be the biggest opening of all time, no. People must keep in mind the dark tones of this movie. This isn’t a movie for little kids like Spiderman was, which may take away a fraction of the audience needed to make a movie a beast at the box office, but make no mistake. This movie is going to be big. It’s just a matter of how big.

  6. The sad part about The Dark Knight is that it will probably pull some dissapointing international numbers, like last time.

    If TDK is really good, it should at least outperform Batman Begins in box office sales.

    By this point, I hope people have forgotten about the pre-Batman Begins movies.

    Anyway, what surprises me about Dungeon Siege is that the cast alone is impressive, with a few well known actors and rising stars.

    But then again, the fact that Uwe Boll is directing overshadows everything.

    Speaking of which, it appears Uwe has had a breakdown, go to the official Postal movie website and read his comment. You’ll see what mean.

  7. Yeb I’m with you Joey. That shit looks worse than Epic Movie and Meet The Spartans combined.
    Well that might be overstating it but it looks like shit anyway.

  8. Next Summer Flop: Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

    I don’t care what it costs to make… they’ve spent a fortune on marketing alone.

    What a stupid f’n idea…

  9. I was going to see RedBelt, but it was out of theaters so fast that I missed it. And only one theater in the area was showing it as well.

  10. Also, I think part of the downfall of Charlie Bartlett, the only movie on this list of duds I actually watched, was that it was trailered forever. No specific release date was on the trailers, I remembered seeing trailers for the movie back last summer and people get tired of seeing trailers for movies that seem to never come out. I actually liked Bartlett, but I have a different taste in movies.

    On a side note, I really liked Pathology and probably wouldn’t have seen it without John taking about the the film so much.

  11. When you factor in the worldwide marketing budget and movie prints, I believe the total cost for Speed Racer had to exceed 200 million, making it an even bigger bomb then most people suspect.

    You can probably throw Leatherheads (58 mil production budget vs 39 mil worldwide boxoffice) in with the flops and Semi-Pro probably didn’t make back its production/marketing budget with its 43 mil worldwide boxoffice take.

  12. According to the marketing, Speed Racer looked like all flash and no substance, similar to previous bombs like the Rollerball remake, Battlefield Earth, Driven, The Island and more. I did see Speed Racer i nthe theater and it wasn’t bad, although it wasn’t great either. However, I think MANY MANY MANY movies are mismarketed. One of my favorite movies of all time, even though it wasn’t a great movie is Night Breed. They just couldn’t figure out the marketing. They tried…but failed.

    Movie marketing comes in many forms. Obviously Blockbusters have fast food tie-ins and all that, but the first and most important part of any marketing strategy HAS GOT to be the TRAILER.

    Great Trailers (on opposite ends of the spectrum):

    Cloverfield (hooked instantly..no explanation…leaves you wanting more…of course so does the entire freaking movie!)

    The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people”, tells you everything about the movie…EVEN THE TWIST! Also, the part in the trailer where they are in the car and Cole explains what happened up ahead, and the biker is right next to the car…*shiver*

    Bad Trailers and or Marketing: God the list would be enormous but I’ll just comment on the cases where the movie was good but the marketing yeesh…Speed Racer for one, the Fountain, Jersey Girl (put Will Smith in the trailer at least! That should be good for 50 mil!), Dazed and Confused, The Grifters, Mallrats, The Cable Guy…

    Best and Easiest Marketing Ever: Blair Witch Project. Make everybody believe it was real footage…sorta.

    PREDICTION FOR THE NEXT “BOMB”? God I hate to say it, but the “Incredible” Hulk. Casual movie goers have been saying “didn’t they already do this?” Also, Meet Dave, because people didn’t see Pluto Nash, they’ve been saying the same thing.

  13. I thought “Charlie Bartlett” looked kind of like a “Rocket Science” which was really an intelligent film and a very good movie. Apparently I was wrong. Heck, I even thought it gave off “Rushmore” vibes.

    BTW, on the MGM discussion…this is the same company who wanted to drop “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.

  14. Charlie Bartlett was a dumb movie that was ill-marketed, hence the bombing. Downey is the only thing worthwhile in that thing. Run Fatboy Run is also a mediocre movie. Sometimes the moviegoing public gets it right and puts their eggs in the right basket. The IRON MAN basket!

  15. Hey Gutpunch,

    It doesn’t matter what it was MEANT to be. You can only evaluate it’s performance based on what it IS. If MGM decides to withhold all promotion and then market it as a DVD release, then you can’t judge a non-existen theatrical run as it’s criteria. That would make ZERO sense.

    If they marketed it as a theatrical release, and made theatrical trailers, and put out TV commercials and put it in more than 12 cities, THEN you could judge it as such.

    You can only evaluate something as it IS. Not as what it should have been.

    MGM were idiots. But that’s not the question.

  16. Does foreign box office not count any more?

    Run Fat Boy Run made a total of $35M World Wide and it cost only $10M to make. I dont know much but I know that any movie would love a $3.5/$1 return.

  17. No because it was never meant to be a theatrical release. It was straight to DVD and as such a title it most likely did very well. The same can’t be said about Pathology. It was meant to be a theatrical release, then sat on the shelve for some reason, went to limited release and then all of a sudden it’s a straight to DVD release.
    You hammed up this film like it was the second coming, so it’s not strange that the readers of this site might think it “bombed” because it came and went without much notice, wether or not it was meant to be straight to DVD (it wasn’t) or not.

  18. Hey Gutpunch,

    No. You’re incorrect. When a studio decides to change it’s gameplan for a movie from theatrical to DVD and decides to not promote the 12 city release with any TV or theatrical trailers and instead decides to promote the DVD release instead… then no, by no defiinition is it a “bomb” until after you see how its marketed release (in this case, dvd) performs.

    The $2.3 million it made in theaters is just gravy.

    Did Dukes of Hazzard 2 “bomb” because it made $0 at the theater, or did it do ok because it more than doubled it’s production costs with the DVD release?

  19. Hey Sfsilver,

    Actually, I complained wildly and often about how MGM completely fucked up with Pathology and how they botched it.

    You said:

    “You never qualified this list as the “Early Box Office Bombs of 2008 that were released in more than 12 theaters”

    Actually, yes I did. I pointed out that all the listed films were wide release. You can’t compare the results of a wide release film to that of a limited release film, or straight to DVD film.

    MGM has so fucked up everything they’ve touched in the last few years that recently (like 2 months or so ago… maybe more) everyone gor fired and replaced over there. We’ll see how things unfold in the next 2-3 years with the new folks in control.

    Anyway, there you have it.

  20. Pathology made just over 100.000 dollars in the US. I’m pretty sure it cost more than that, more like 10 million.
    Worldwide it made just over 2.3 million dollars.
    It’s a bomb by any definition, in the game or not.

  21. Hey 1138,

    You’re incorrect on a few of your assumption. First of all… a VERY small percentage of limited release films (and “limited” is usually defined by about 100-300 screens) move on the get wide release regardless of their performance.

    Second, since Pathology is only a DVD release (it only played 40 theaters) we won’t know if it’s a “bomb” or not until after it gets released. But I pretty much guarantee you it’ll make a profit since it was so inexpensive to make.

    Third, if you read the post, this isn’t a list of bombs for the SUMMER… this is a list of bombs for the year, and all of them had a wide release (minimum of 1000 screens).

    The theatrical release of the “Pathology” was not a part of the MGM plan, and therefore wasn’t marketed on TV or in theaters. It was seen primarily as a DVD release. That was a mistake in my opinion, but it is what it is.

    So no, not by any definition was Pathology a “bomb”. However… having said that… let’s talk about this again in 4 months after we see how it did on DVD.

  22. John, I’m not dissing Pathology. I genuinely thought maybe you had accidentally over looked it for the list. In fairness, not once was Pathology ever represented as a direct to DVD release on themovieblog. Is it so outrageous that I would be disturbed by the lack of quality marketing and box office for something that I was excited about because I read and listen to your blog/podcasts? You never treated it as a film that wasn’t “part of the game” in all the advance talk, interviews and articles here on the site. In fact I would say that themovieblog was the only effective marketing done for the film.

    You never qualified this list as the “Early Box Office Bombs of 2008 that were released in more than 12 theaters”

    I would love a real discussion of what happened with Pathology. I was really excited for it. I was a big fan of Crank, and want to see these guys make more movies. When in the process did this film move to a low expectations direct to DVD release? Pathology wasn’t a piece of junk, so why was it kind of treated as such by the distributor? Why did the studio basically dump the film? You’ve got this great insider relationship with the creative team – this would be a fascinating discussion to have with them. I’m genuinely curious.

  23. Speedracer was a great flick and you suck for saying that it sucked. Big Box office does not = great movie. Transformers (this blog’s fave movie of all time?) SUCKED and it was huge at the Box office. The Shrek movies SUCK too. I enjoy this blog because you people post a lot of stuff, but you always seem to love the crap and crap on the stuff that is good.

  24. John, you failed to mention a couple of definitions of bomb when it comes to “Pathology”.

    Did it make back it’s investment or even a profit? Even with a 1000.00 per screen average, does not make a success. Show me the money.

    If the screen average was so good why was the film not expanded or marketed even further? Small movies with really good word of mouth coupled with good monies per screen usually guarantee expansion.

    Any movie released whether it be small or wide released with plenty of fanfare, are all in the “game”. Any movie released hopes to be big and hopes to garner attention and mega money beyond belief. Every movie is in the game. Pathology with it’s commercial horror genre concept is a game player from the day of it’s inception.

    If you are talking about summer movies in this topic, yes Pathology ( Was it released in the spring?) does not apply but if you are talking about busts for the year, well then Pathology might apply. If it broke even that’s fine…if not then it’s a bust. And if DVD’s sales and rentals don’t help it break even or even make a profit then it is most definitely a bomb.

    Also repeat viewing is not usually a sign of quality which is really relative. Another man’s crap is another man’s gold. Take Phantom Menace which had plenty of repeat reviewings and according to many fans and pro critics was a complete trash of a movie that ruined a great mythology. And there are plenty of other movies that made plenty of money and quality just was not a major factor. Just look at the past summer movies where each summer seasons constantly makes more money but the quality just is not there. Many of your readers have commented on how the past summer movies have been really poor in quality and this the first summer season in years where money might actually equal quality. So though box office can reflect public interest and a bunch of other marketing numbers…quality is usually not one of them.

  25. Hey SFSilver

    You said:

    “Where is Pathology on this list. I would consider that to be the years most egregious marketing failure of the year, and by any measure a huge flop”

    If that’s the case you really need to check your facts. First of all, unlike all the films on this list Pathology wasn’t a wide release film. For all intents and purposes it’s a straight to DVD offering since it only played 12 cities, on top of that it made over $1000 per screen average which was significantly higher than all the films on this list.

    So no, the film, by any definition didn’t “bomb” since it was never a part of the game, and even as such it did respectably on it’s per screen average.

  26. Where is Pathology on this list. I would consider that to be the years most egregious marketing failure of the year, and by any measure a huge flop.

    As to Red Belt. It’s funny that you see the audience of this film as MMA fans. I see it very differently. I think the audience for this film is David Mamet fans. admittedly this is not a huge audience base, but Mamet is not a calculated creator of mass audience pop culture product. He’s one of our greatest living play writes and he cares more about language character and plot than selling a product to MMA audiences.

    As you pointed out the film is not a celebration of MMA. I think you are reading your own love/reverence for action and MMA into the intent of this film.

    I’m also not surprised that it made very little money so far. Perhaps it’s a little too sophisticated for mass audiences. I have a hard time believing the producers expected it to gross much. It’s not as though Mamet has a record of box office success.

  27. Okay seriously, John can buy a dinner on my alone because the only one of these movies that I heard of more than once was Speed Racer. I loved the original cartoon, but the previews made me want to piss on the theater floor… It looked like a cheesy Joel schumacher batman sequel with a neon gotham city… I have no desire to see one of my childhood cartoon classics be ruined on the screen… Transformers kicked ass and I have faith in the sequel to that and GI Joe, but only because they actually look like they are put together with someone’s brains, not their ass… The Wachowski brothers (Speed Racer) should have quit after they ruined the Matrix.

  28. Regarding ‘Charlie Bartlett’, as posted elsewhere by me at the time:

    As most message board visitors don’t seem to be that interested in actually taking a look at why a film works…or as is more often the case, why a film DOESN’T work, I’ll keep this brief.

    ‘Charlie Bartlett’ is no ‘Ferris Beuller’. There are other comparisons that might be made, but this is the most obvious one.

    I was kinda amazed at how cavalierly drugs and sex and even drinking were dealt with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, I hate whitewashing of youth culture. But I was still surprised.

    This final point is where I’d normally go to town, because it has to do with the script, and after all, I’m a screenwriter. But leaving a longer discussion for another place, another time, I will say this much: the films that affect us, those that resonate, those that leave an impression…have certain qualities. A process occurs wherein we have an ‘experience’ while watching the story unfold. Some on these boards might take offence to there being a ‘process’ at all. These are the same people who have no problem accepting that a coach has a game plan, that a good pop tune essentially manipulates us, or that even great food is filled with ‘expected’ pleasures. ‘Charlie Bartlett’ didn’t have any of the requisite elements to make it a memorable film-going experience. Instead, it’s bound to be a forgotten film in a very short period of time. (The end of the month…?) Anyone curious about what I’m referring to is invited to email me, after which I’ll expound to my fingers’ delight.

    In a nutshell, this film didn’t really do much, didn’t accomplish anything, didn’t use any of its resources to their potential…but most importantly, it reinforces to all screenwriters that you really don’t have to strive for excellence. You only need to create something ‘good enough’, something sufficiently saleable for producers to wrap talent around and bring to market. What a shame; this film could have been SO much more. It is, as the subject announces, ‘nothing of any import’.

    Sad.

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