Deadline’s annual film revenue tournaments have celebrated the triumphs of each year’s most profitable films. This year, we decided to look at the films on the opposite end of the spectrum. The big budget misfires that bled red ink and reminded everyone from the artists to the executives and studio executives that big swings don’t always clear the fences. These included passion projects, a blatant play for the movie going audience in China, while others were flat-out misfires. Some in the latter category included Justice League, The Mummy, Valerian and Blade Runner 2049. But guess what? They didn’t crack the Top Five. Here are the movies our experts said posted the worst losses.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
WARNER BROS./VILLAGE ROADSHOW
Warner Bros has been fixated on the Camelot legend for years, developing several projects that included a remake of John Boorman’s Excalibur. Executives finally sparked to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, from a well drawn blueprint by writer Joby Harold that spread revelations of the Arthurian mythology over a series of films. The studio tapped director Guy Ritchie, whose playful, kinetic style translated well to the Sherlock Holmes films, and chose Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam to play the man who drew the sword from the stone. But moviegoer interest in classic IP titles is no longer reliable. Do young people even read anymore? And waiting for future films to introduce Merlin, Lancelot and Guinevere left the film with a gritty origin story about the formative moments of a great king, without the love story. Add a production budget of $175M before P&A, and the result was a loss of $153.2M for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow. The studio tried some reshoots after a first screening that elicited alarming scores, but the film ultimately never found its footing. Critics thumped the result, charging the film with containing hackneyed images that seemed borrowed from better Warner Bros movies (Voldemort’s snake from Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings elephants, and a knight who looked a lot like Immortan Joe from Mad Max Fury Road). The biggest disappointment is that Hunnam — who was ridiculously ripped — won’t get to take Arthur to the heights reached in the mythical tale.
THE BOX SCORE
A live-action/animated hybrid passion project of former Paramount president Adam Goodman, Monster Trucks wasn’t made until long after Goodman was gone. The film proved the difficulty of launching a four quadrant tent pole without a branded property to back it up. It was clear for a long time this one was going to be a big budget loser when the studio finally released it. Monster Trucks missed several release dates, starting when it moved off its summer 2015 opening. Before the film even had a chance to play over MLK weekend last year, Viacom had already written off the film to the tune of $115M. Our financial analysts see that in the end, Monster Trucks was a $123.1M loss.
THE BOX SCORE
SURVIVAL PICTURES/OPEN ROAD
The Terry George-directed drama constructed a love triangle between Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon and Oscar Isaac to show the shameful early 20th Century genocide of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks. The losses on this one were cushioned by the fact that the film was a very personal project of Armenian mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who absorbed much of the loss posthumously. The Turkish government has long denied there was a genocide, and the government reportedly used its influence to halt several previous attempts to mount a proper movie. Even though he owned casinos and MGM, even Kerkorian struggled to get a movie made at his own studio. After Kerkorian’s death, his dream of a David Lean-style epic was realized by a combination of parties. There was UCLA doctor Eric Esrailian, via the late mogul’s Survival Pictures, along with producers Mike Medavoy and William Horberg. And George, who wrote and directed the celebrated genocide tale Hotel Rwanda, and wrote In The Name of the Father. Open Road took U.S. rights and released the film April 24, timed to the start of the Armenian Genocide campaign 102 years ago. Few foreign rights were sold, evidence that the taboo nature of the film worked against it. Critics weren’t kind, either. The result was a $102.1M loss.
THE BOX SCORE
THE GREAT WALL
Long before it was bought by China-based Wanda Group for $3.5B, Legendary eyed The Great Wall as a way to engage the fast growing movie going audience in the Middle Kingdom. Numerous directors including Ed Zwick came and went, along with several stars. The picture finally came together with heralded Raise the Red Lantern director Zhang Yimou, and Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal as the outsiders who try to help Chinese warrior defend The Great Wall from a series of monsters. The most expensive film ever to be shot completely in China, with ancillary and theatrical costs reaching $266.9M. The pain was shared. Universal was in for a 20% stake, with myriad Chinese partners China Film Group and Le Vision Pictures shouldering some. China generated 51% of the pic’s $334.9M B.O., but the movie hit the wall everywhere else, plain and simple. Having an American star as a savior in a fictitious Chinese tale put off some Asian audiences, and the whole monster tale was greeted with indifference by stateside audiences. In the end, The Great Wall crumbles with a $74.5M loss.
THE BOX SCORE
This disaster film marked the feature directorial debut of Independence Day producer and co-writer Dean Devlin, who sources said struggled to balance the VFX with a compelling plot and character development. It was backed by Skydance chief David Ellison, and Warner Bros left Skydance to steer production. Reshoots to the tune of $15M were ordered, and Jerry Bruckheimer was called in to try and rescue the film. Beyond all those problems, moviegoers had lost interest in the star-driven disaster film genre. So what seemed like a good idea when it was greenlit in 2014 proved to be a $71.6M loss as these numbers convey.
THE BOX SCORE
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