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Thread: Notorious Flop Waterworld Proving A Huge Hit For Syfy So They're Planning A Spin-Off

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    Default Notorious Flop Waterworld Proving A Huge Hit For Syfy So They're Planning A Spin-Off



    It all comes down to numbers. Yet again.

    Waterworld was a notoriously big-budget, low box-office sci-fi adventure, featuring Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper and an awful lot of quasi-Mad Max-y floating sets.

    I have to admit, there were bits that I really liked - the guy who lives in the fuel tanker, for example. There's a moment with him that seemed like something from a Jeunet movie.

    The film pulled in under $90 million at the US box office, against a budget of $175 million or so, or perhaps as much as $235 million - depending on which bean counter you believe. This was in 1995, so what ever budget you do settle on, all of those numbers would have been much higher today.

    But forget inflation and just look at the ratio between the outgoing and incoming. It's steep enough that there was never any chance of a sequel.

    But that's not the end of the story. Or the counting.

    The film has gone on to have a second life in home entertainment, and according to Forbes, it has proven to be quite a hit for the SyFy channel. 400,000 people watched it last time and that, by their measure, is a good result.

    So Dave Howe, the network's president, is considering a spin-off TV series. It has apparently been "talked about endlessly" and remains a real possibility.

    At the same time, SyFy are "actively developing scripts" for a move into feature films. There's no news on any of these in the Forbes piece, but the implication is, they're applying different criteria as to what would make good TV and what would pass on the silver screen.

    Anybody who has ever seen Sharktopis will be grateful for that at least.

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    There was a time, back in the college and roommate years, when it was, "How much do I have to spend to get just enough cable to include the sci-fi channel?" Anyone else remember that time? If only we had known then how it would turn out.

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    Wrote the Book on Cool Revolutionary Cyke's Avatar
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    Well, I for one, can't wait for SyFy's adaptation of Pitof's Catwoman- only this time with giant sharks!
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    Will Debbie Gibson replace Dennis Hopper, cus if not I'm out.
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    The only thing notorious about Waterworld's box office is that people continue to claim the film was a flop. An underperformer? Sure. A flop? Only if you're a tabloid journalist.

    Its worldwide gross was about $264,000,000, so even if you take out about 30% of that and give it to the cinemas that screened the film you're still left with about $185,000,000, which is higher than the $175,000,000 budget by about $10 million bucks. Sure, add in marketing costs and you're back into the red, but Waterworld was a very strong title on home video and TV sales, so you're back into the black again. And of course it's still earning money on TV, DVD and bluray 17 years later.

    The most important piece of information people ignore is that in mid-1995 Matsushita sold 80% of its stock in Universal Pictures to Seagram for $5.7 billion. Part of the sales agreement was that Matsushita assumed all costs for Waterworld *before* the sale, thus effectively giving Seagram the movie for free. As a result, in accounting terms, Waterworld was actually Universal's most successful film ever. Sort of.
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    I've always thought Waterworld got a crap deal. Was it amazing? No, I suppose not. But 12 year old me was thoroughly entertained.
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    A few quick points.

    1. It seems to me that one of the reasons why WATERWORLD underperformed at the box office was because the tabloid media was basically bad mouthing the movie while it was being madse. I recall hearing reports of the movie being too expensive and might not make it';s money back at he box office. They were also saying that early word on the film was bad. It's like the tabloid media was intentionally trying to intentionally generate bad publicity for the movie.

    2. I saw WATERWORLD when it first came on cable, and I LOVED it. IMO, this movie was underrated. This movie was basically Sub Mariner crossed with MAD MAX.

    3. the SyFy Channel sucks.

    4. IMO, if they are going to make a spinoff TV series they should make it an animated TV series. It would be less expensive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grant Watson View Post
    The only thing notorious about Waterworld's box office is that people continue to claim the film was a flop. An underperformer? Sure. A flop? Only if you're a tabloid journalist.

    Its worldwide gross was about $264,000,000, so even if you take out about 30% of that and give it to the cinemas that screened the film you're still left with about $185,000,000, which is higher than the $175,000,000 budget by about $10 million bucks. Sure, add in marketing costs and you're back into the red, but Waterworld was a very strong title on home video and TV sales, so you're back into the black again. And of course it's still earning money on TV, DVD and bluray 17 years later.

    The most important piece of information people ignore is that in mid-1995 Matsushita sold 80% of its stock in Universal Pictures to Seagram for $5.7 billion. Part of the sales agreement was that Matsushita assumed all costs for Waterworld *before* the sale, thus effectively giving Seagram the movie for free. As a result, in accounting terms, Waterworld was actually Universal's most successful film ever. Sort of.
    Glad you're here 20 years later still defending that flop

    Are you still fighting the good fight for Ishtar too??

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grant Watson View Post
    The only thing notorious about Waterworld's box office is that people continue to claim the film was a flop. An underperformer? Sure. A flop? Only if you're a tabloid journalist.

    Its worldwide gross was about $264,000,000, so even if you take out about 30% of that and give it to the cinemas that screened the film you're still left with about $185,000,000, which is higher than the $175,000,000 budget by about $10 million bucks. Sure, add in marketing costs and you're back into the red, but Waterworld was a very strong title on home video and TV sales, so you're back into the black again. And of course it's still earning money on TV, DVD and bluray 17 years later.

    The most important piece of information people ignore is that in mid-1995 Matsushita sold 80% of its stock in Universal Pictures to Seagram for $5.7 billion. Part of the sales agreement was that Matsushita assumed all costs for Waterworld *before* the sale, thus effectively giving Seagram the movie for free. As a result, in accounting terms, Waterworld was actually Universal's most successful film ever. Sort of.
    I'm sure I read somewhere on BoxOfficeMojo (so accuracy is not guaranteed) that the average studio take on final theatrical gross is 55%, so that knocks it down to $145.2 million, which is well below the $175 million production costs (and well belower the possible $235 million production costs). Also, the marketing budget isn't included in production cost quotes, and for a supposed summer blockbuster that can be a huge amount -- for more recent films I've seen figures of $100 million banded about, I couldn't tell you how accurate that is or what it is in 1995 money, but it's a safe bet that we're adding tens of millions to whatever the production costs were.

    Having said that, and as you mention, when you add in creative accountancy and rentals and video sales and worldwide TV rights (and TV spinoff rights), it will eventually have broken even anyway, and even turned some sort of profit.

    But, the reason it's considered a flop is this: studios don't put 100s of millions of dollars into a single summer blockbuster so that they can make a small profit over the next 5 to 10 (to 17) years. They want that investment back in the initial weeks of its initial theatrical release. That Waterworld is a special case where the production costs can be written off doesn't mean it should be viewed as any kind of success, because it's not an easily engineered situation that can be used to make a sequel (or even just a film in a similar vein) look viable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anti-Chris View Post
    But 12 year old me was thoroughly entertained.
    I'll cop to loving it as a kid. I haven't seen it since I was 15 or so, so I have no idea how it held up, but I still love the idea of "Mad Max on water."
    While we're airing our dirty laundry, I also loved Battlefield: Earth when it came out.
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