I didn’t do the maths here, but let’s trust in it and countdown the 15 biggest money-losers of the year.
Here’s the list in escalating order of floppiness.
- Tower Heist – Budget: $75M; Worldwide Gross: $126.3m
- Green Lantern – Budget: $200M; Worldwide Gross: $219.9m
- Cowboys & Aliens – Budget: $163M; Worldwide Gross: $178.8m
- Glee: The 3D Concert Movie – Budget: $9M; Worldwide Gross: $18.7m
- I Don’t Know How She Does It – Budget: $24M; Worldwide Gross: $30.5m
- Sucker Punch – Budget: $82M; Worldwide Gross: $89.8m
- Arthur – Budget: $40M; Worldwide Gross: $45.7m
- New Year’s Eve – Budget: $56M, Worldwide Gross: $54.9m
- The Thing – Budget: $38M; Worldwide Gross: $27.4m
- Anonymous – Budget: $30M; Worldwide Gross: $14.8m
- Happy Feet Two – Budget: $135M; Worldwide Gross: $115m
- The Rum Diary – Budget: $45M; Worldwide Gross: $21.6m
- The Big Year – Budget: $41M; Worldwide Gross: $7.4m
- Conan the Barbarian – Budget: $90M; Worldwide Gross: $48.8m
- Mars Needs Moms – Budget: $150M; Worldwide Gross: $39m
I think this needs a little bit of annotation.
Note that not all of these films come up in deficit when you offset their production budget against gross. And note that while the gross is relatively well accounted for, the budget is likely to be an estimate, if an informed one.
There are other costs, not openly accounted for in the chart above. One is the slice of pie given to the exhibitors. This, perhaps, isn’t as much as you might imagine, but it does always remind me of why the worst cinemas can feel like dealers of expensive snack foods that just happen to screen movies on the side. The exhibitors’ cut will change from country to country and, indeed, film to film.
And talking of change from country to country – not every one of those films will have completed its worldwide run as yet. The Big Year, for example, is still waiting for several international playdates.
And there’s also marketing costs to be accounted for. There’s no indication of those in this chart, and it’s not safe to assume all films have the same advertising and promotions budget. If those dollars could be factored in, I’m sure the order of this list would move around somewhat.
And then there’s the small matter of second-wave income from DVD and Blu-ray, ancillary sales and merchandising. The Glee concert film, in particular, seems destined for a healthy life in home entertainment, and I think that Green Lantern, say, would have pulled in more from tie-ins than How Does She Do It.
And, eventually, these films will have been pushed out to TV often enough, packaged with other, bigger, more desirable films that they should all balance up in the books.
While we didn’t see any stats for films made outside of Hollywood, I can’t imagine they’d be splashing anything like the same amount of cash, and would therefore find it hard to break into that top tier of cash-burning turkeys.
2011 was not the healthiest year for box office, despite offering a tempting array of different, and often extraordinary films. But is there cause for concern? There was a 4% slip in US box office turnover this last year – is this a symptom of an underlying, progressive issue?
I think I’ll head off to the cinema now for a triple bill of Mission: Impossible, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Lady, just to do my part. Every little bit helps.