Expensive screen duds hound A-listers
US film producers are worried, because some summer movies have flopped at the box office.
While it’s true that 15 films to date have become certified hits, some other productions have sunk without a trace.
Observers “blame” the industry’s excessively knee-jerk reliance on “formula,” plus factors like expensive A-list actors and similarly pricey special effects. The negative trend has scared financiers into reassessing the way they make movies.
Recent relative failures at the box office include Johnny Depp’s “The Lone Ranger,” Will Smith’s “After Earth,” the animated feature, “Turbo,” and the slam-bang actioner, “RIPD.”
“Lone Ranger” was the biggest disappointment, because Depp’s starrers are generally deemed “flop-proof.” But, the unlikely happened, possibly because viewers were turned off by the unusually harsh “tribal” makeup that Depp chose to wear as Tonto.
Whatever the most pertinent culprit was, the film cost a whopping $220 million to make, but earned only $88 million, a clear reversal that the iconic actor must be ruminating over, and trying to learn from as he considers his next cinematic moves.
Smith is similarly smarting after the poor showing of his cautionary starrer, “After Earth.” What makes viewers’ rejection of the film more distressing is the fact that it was meant to firm up his teenage son Jaden’s bid to become Hollywood’s new “prince” of action and sci-fi films. Alas, Jaden will have to come up with another, better screen showcase to attain that lofty goal.
As for the other films that ended up in the red, all of them cost around $130 million to produce, but grossed less than that.
“Pacific Rim” also lost money during its US run—but, instructively enough, it redeemed itself and recouped its losses when it was shown internationally, where it turned out to be a big hit, grossing a whopping $300 million.
What accounts for the huge disparity in domestic versus global income? We note that robots are really big in Asia, and the film showcased more than its (giant) share of them, so that could have turned the tide in its favor.
In any case, now that some heretofore “insured” productions are turning out to be expensive duds, producers are no longer going for A-list stars and huge production values and effects, and are now on the lookout for relatively small stories that pack a big punch in terms of probable audience empathy and appeal.
The risks may be bigger, but now that “sure-fire” blockbusters have turned out to be an even more expensive gamble, financiers prefer a less expensive way to make a big mistake!