Creating a feature-length film is a huge undertaking. Hundreds of auditions, thousands of potential actors and millions of dollars are just a few of the ingredients needed for a successful movie. Sometimes, however, all those auditions, actors and millions of dollars just aren’t enough, which results in cinematic and financial disaster – what is commonly known as a “box-office bomb.”
There are many big-budget films that didn’t live up to audiences’ expectations. For whatever reason, these productions failed to attract the profits needed to break even.
We’ve picked five surprising box-office bombs that missed the mark and cost production companies millions in the process.
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1. Cats (2019)
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is so universally popular that the film adaptation’s failure to impress came as a shock to fans. The star-studded cast included Dame Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift and Ian McKellen, but somehow the movie managed to cost Universal Pictures between $71 and $114 million.
2. Ali (2001)
One would have thought that a biographical film about one of the world’s greatest pugilists would draw crowds. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Despite Muhammad Ali’s own efforts to promote the film, Ali ended up costing Sony over $100 million, although both Will Smith (Muhammad Ali) and Jon Voight (Howard Cosell) were nominated for Oscars for their performances.
3. West Side Story (2021)
Following in the steps of 2019’s Cats adaptation, the film version of musical West Side Story was not received well and managed to leave production companies around $104 million out of pocket. Some critics have speculated that its lack of appeal may be related to audiences’ preference for action films, especially those with flashy CGI sequences and a superhero or two.
4. 47 Ronin (2013)
Big names Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada failed to rescue 47 Ronin from box office failure. The action film, set in 18th century Japan, focused on a group of samurai warriors on a quest to avenge the death of their leader. This thrilling subject matter unfortunately wasn’t enough to woo the crowds, and 47 Ronin performed dismally both in the US and Japan. Critics have described the film as “surprisingly dull”, and in the end the escapade managed to make a loss of about $112 million.
5. The BFG (2016)
Occasionally it is possible for a talented director to transform a beloved book into a cinematic masterpiece – Lord of the Rings, for example – but for each success there is a string of disasters. Roald Dahl, one of the most famous children’s authors, penned the novel The BFG long before a film adaptation was even a remote possibility – maybe for the best. While some viewers enjoyed the production, others felt the absence of Dahl’s dark undertone and labelled The BFG as forcibly feel-good and one-dimensional. The film is estimated to have lost $80-113 million.
There is no doubt that there will be more box-office bombs in the future that will have viewers reaching for their phones and their favourite live casino online instead. But viewers can rest assured that filmmakers learn from their mistakes and do their level best to produce first-class entertainment.