Since 2020 will have an (at best) abridged summer movie season, and blockbusters typically go hand-in-hand with this time of year, I thought it would be fun to do a list of the biggest bombs in the history of Hollywood’s biggest season. For this list, I will be exposing the biggest money losers released between May and August (the typically-accepted “summer movie season”), and ranking them by how big of a financial bath they took after inflation is taken into account (although the original losses will be noted). There are even some films that lost over a hundred million dollars that weren’t even bad enough to make this list, such as: “Ben-Hur” ($121 million in 2016; $128 million after inflation), “Windtalkers” ($81 million in 2002; $115 million), “Evan Almighty” ($88 million in 2007; $109 million), “Battlefield Earth” ($73 million in 2000; $109 million), and “Fantastic Four” ($100 million in 2015; $108 million).
As with many box office bombs, these films failed because they were over-budgeted and/or are just poor quality, but if you happen to like anything you see here then don’t get offended; I liked “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and that thing sunk like a stone to the tune of $76 million in losses (although I actually doubt you even know half the films on this list, much less have seen them; that’s kind of the point). Each figure listed is the finances from its year of release, with the (inflation figure) also given. Let’s get into it.
10. Stealth (July 2005)
Budget: $135 million ($177 million)
Gross: $79 million ($103 million)
Losses: $96 million ($126 million)
Coming off his Oscar win for “Ray,” Jamie Foxx did what many actors did and took a big-budget paycheck role. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe he could’ve chosen a better script. “Stealth” crashed with critics and made less than 60% of its production budget.
9. Dark Phoenix (June 2019)
Budget: $200 million
Gross: $252 million
Losses: $133 million (N/A)
Disney inherited “Dark Phoenix” from Fox and tried to market it as the “Avengers: Endgame” of the X-Men series. Unfortunately, the film had already been delayed and reshot several times, and the public was tired of the series. It became the lowest-grossing installment of the X-Men films, and sent things out on a whimper.
8. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (July 2001)
Budget: $137 million ($198 million)
Gross: $85 million ($123 million)
Losses: $94 million ($136 million)
Such a big bomb that Square Pictures, the production company that made the film, shut its doors. Spending $137 million (and $200 million today) on an animated film isn’t new, but it’s a big risk when you’re not Pixar.
7. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (August 2002)
Budget: $100 million ($142 million)
Gross: $7 million ($10 million)
Losses: $96 million ($136 million)
Test screening reactions were so bad that by the time reshoots were done this thing cost $100 million and Eddie Murphy (who made $20 million for his role, three-times what it made at the box office) refused to promote it.
6. Titan A.E. (June 2000)
Budget: $75 million ($111 million)
Gross: $36 million ($53 million)
Losses: $100 million ($148 million)
Like “Final Fantasy,” this forced the production company behind it (Fox Animation) to shut down, just two weeks after its release (making just half your production budget back will do that).
5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 2017)
Budget: $175 million ($183 million)
Gross: $148 million ($154 million)
Losses: $153 million ($160 million)
Originally meant to be the first of a six film franchise, that hilariously cocky plan was swiftly shut down. $175 million is a lot to spend on a film, but to give that to a non-Marvel IP is just irresponsible; if “King Arthur” had only cost $75 million it still would have lost money, but it wouldn’t have been quite so historic of a blemish for Warner Bros.
4. Tomorrowland (May 2015)
Budget: $190 million ($205 million)
Gross: $209 million ($226 million)
Losses: $150 million ($162 million)
Disney can afford to take baths on things like “John Carter,” “Solo,” and this, but it seems it happens at least once a year with them (this won’t be the last time we see them on this list).
3. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (July 2003)
Budget: $60 million ($83 million)
Gross: $87 million ($121 million)
Losses: $125 million ($174 million)
Almost forced DreamWorks to close its doors due to its huge marketing budget, and convinced the company to stop making traditionally animated films altogether.
2. The 13th Warrior (August 1999)
Budget: $160 million ($246 million)
Gross: $61 million ($93 million)
Losses: $129 million ($198 million)
$160 million is a lot to spend on a non-superhero movie by modern standards; in 1999, it was nearly impossible to fathom (you’d never see a non-MCU film getting a $250 million check nowadays). The film ended up losing $129 million, which, again, would be a historic amount in 2020; its $198 million inflation loss ranks among the highest of all-time. Yet, somehow, it’s not as bad as…
1. The Lone Ranger (July 2013)
Budget: $250 million ($275 million)
Gross: $260 million ($286 million)
Losses: $190 million ($209 million)
Hello again, Disney. Speaking of giving a non-MCU film a $250 million budget, the Mouse House did just that in 2013 with “The Lone Ranger,” then backed it with a massive marketing campaign. The result was critical slashing, a modest 4th of July opening and poor legs, ending with just a $260 million worldwide gross. The $190 million losses (nearly $210 million by modern standards) went down into history, and may have permanently killed the western genre.
Thanks for giving this a glance! I don’t know about you, but I miss sitting around in the sun reading about the summer box office, much less actually going to the theater. Hopefully “Tenet” and “Mulan” are here soon. Stay safe out there!
*all box office figures provided by Box Office Mojo
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