This year has seen quite a few big movies absolutely tank at the box office. Movies like R.I.P.D, The Lone Ranger, White House Down and After Earth have fizzled while lower budget films such as The Heat, Now You See Me and The Purge have made bigger returns on their investment. Part of this has to do with studios now pandering to overseas markets, the Chinese and Russians are now bigger markets than ever before, and they love big budget films with big name actors attached. While Hollywood seems to be blowing its wad all over the place in the past few years, the 90s was the real starting point of the big budget disaster.
If you think of 90s bombs, the first movie that would come to mind is Waterworld. The 1995 film was one of the most expensive to produce at the time, and did underperform domestically. However, the movie did manage to make money overseas, and did come out ahead of its $175 million price tag. So to call Waterworld a flop or a bomb isn’t exactly accurate. Neither would calling Speed 2: Cruise Control a box office bomb. Sure, it’s one of the worst-reviewed films of 1997, or even the 90s in general. But the movie did manage to make $50 million more than its $110 million budget, so it really didn’t flop per se.
For a movie to be considered a full-on bomb, not only would the movie debut to less than expected results on the opening weekend, but the movie would have to gross less than what the production cost. Smaller films may bomb simply because it never found an audience or received bad promotion, but since the budget is typically smaller, the losses really never get coverage. But when a big film with hundreds of millions of dollars backing it up in hopes of seeing a larger return flops hard, people notice.
Here’s a list of the biggest money losers of the 90s:
Cutthroat Island (1995): Cost $98m, Made $19m
The Postman (1997): Cost $80m, Made $18m
Lolita (1997): Cost $62m, Made $1m
Hard Rain (1998): Cost $70m, Made $20m
Beloved (1998): Cost $80m, Made $23m
Sphere (1998): Cost $80m, Made $37m
Instinct (1999): Cost $80m, Made $34m
The Astronaut’s Wife (1999): Cost $75m, Made $20m
Chill Factor (1999): Cost $70m, Made $11m
Dudley Do-Right (1999): Cost $70m, Made $10m
The 13th Warrior (1999): Cost $100-160m, Made $62m
|This was one way to get people to see The Postman|
The most high-profile flops were Cutthroat Island and The Postman, as these were big budget films that just didn’t see the return on the investment as expected. Much of the flops also came from the tail end of the decade, with a sharp increase in box-office bombs in 1998 and 1999. After Jurassic Park, film studios were quick to snap up the rights of his other novels, but as you can see, neither Sphere nor The 13th Warrior translated into box office success. Also, whoever thought it was a good idea to turn Dudley Do-Right into a movie was on crack. That movie couldn’t help but bomb. Chill Factor was terrible, which is why no-one wanted to pay money to see it, but I just don’t know how a movie about pedophilia didn’t rake in big money! That would be Lolita, which I remember seeing on Showtime years ago, and it’s one of the sleaziest films I’ve seen.
Each of these movies flopped for different reasons: poor casting, poor marketing or people just weren’t interested. Really, who would want to see a movie about a postman…. IN THE FUTURE? Maybe it was too wild of a concept, or maybe people still had the bad taste of Waterworld in their mouths. But interestingly enough, the 90s did give birth to a now-common phenomenon in Hollywood: big budget disasters.