Despite the sometimes astronomical sums injected by the studios for their films, sometimes the Box Office penalty is absolutely devastating. To the point of sinking the companies that created them. Here are three examples.
Certain works are sometimes carried at arm's length by the studios, which do not hesitate to inject astronomical sums into an always perilous enterprise, throughout the creative chain, from the birth of an idea or concept to projection. of the film in front of an audience.
It's not the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on marketing costs by the studios that will say the opposite. Because success, despite these sometimes pharaonic sums, is not always there. Especially if we consider as an example that, for a work that cost $100 million to produce, the break-even threshold must be at least 2 to 2.5 times equivalent to the production budget.
With this in mind, here are three examples of films that underperformed so much at the Box Office that they ended up outright defeating the studios that made them.
“I have a special affection for this book. Hubbard was a great writer and I had an idea of the film's potential, a fantasy in my mind that lasted for years.” These are the words of John Travolta published in an article inin January 2008. What is he talking about? From Earth battlefield.
Directed by Roger Christian, who started as a set designer on Star Wars and was a second unit director on Return of the Jedi, the film takes place in the year 3000, on a desert Earth and humanity on the verge of extinction , under the control of the Psychlos. But the heroic Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) will give hope to the surviving earthlings…
We also find in the cast Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates, Marie-Josée Croze and of course John Travolta, in a look of absolute bad taste with his dreadlocks of the future and his eyebrows worthy of the Grinch.
Artistically resurrected by Quentin Tarantino thanks to his cult role in Pulp Fiction, John Travolta wandered through the corridors of Hollywood in the mid-1990s to try to convince the studios to produce an adaptation of this book written by the founder of the The Church of Scientology, to which the actor has been a member since 1975. But, given the sulphurous origin of his progenitor, one might as well say that the subject was either highly flammable or perfectly radioactive.
The project finally landed in the hands of a very young structure, Franchise Picturesfounded in 1997. Backed by a German production company, Intertainment Licensingthe financial arrangement was also done with the help of John Travolta, who believed strongly in the project.
He pumped in millions of dollars, hoping to make a two-part adaptation of the novel. He even agreed to lower his salary by 10 million dollars in exchange for paying 15 million when the film reached 55 million at the box office.
Obviously wishful thinking, since it didn't even bring in $30 million at the international Box Office… Earth battlefield is considered one of the worst films ever made, as the worst film of John Travolta's career, and ranks high in your Top 25 Worst Films of All Time according to your ratings.
Officially, the film cost a whopping $73 million. But that was before Justice (and the FBI) looked into the account records… A complaint filed in December 2000 by the German co-producing company, Intertainment Licensingrevealed that Franchise Pictures had overinflated the film's budget, which was actually $44 million. A pure scam.
In 2004, a judgment ordered Franchise Pictures to pay Entertainment $121.7 million. Of this sum, the founder of Franchise PicturesElie Samaha, was personally found responsible and ordered to pay $77 million in damages out of his own pocket.
Financially strangled, Franchise Pictures declared bankruptcy in August 2007, and was liquidated.
The War of the Abyss
It is an understatement to say that the drama of the sinking of the Titanic has always been a great source of artistic inspiration in cinema. And, of course, as is often the case, the best coexists with the worst. Among the best known, James Cameron's Titanic obviously, or the formidable Atlantic, latitude 41° by Roy Ward Baker released in 1958, a real model for Cameron in fact. And, no, we won't mention the Titanic 2 mockbuster.
Released in 1980, War of the Deep was one of the most expensive films developed around the famous cruise ship sent to the bottom. Directed by Jerry Jameson, best known for his work on TV in series like Arabesque, Dallas and Magnum, the film is an adaptation of a novel written by Clive Cussler, Refloat the Titanic!published in 1976.
The pitch? The American army has just developed a new defense system that requires an extremely rare mineral to operate. Luckily, Admiral Sandecker, Dirk Pitt and Doctor Seagram discovered that the Titanic had a huge cargo of this ore on board. The army then decides to go and recover the ship, but they are not at the end of their surprises…
Here is the trailer…
Released five years before the discovery of the wreck, the film cost its production company, Incorporated Television Company (ITC Entertainment), nearly $40 million. Its exploitation at the Box Office was a disaster, since it grossed approximately $7 million.
Barely enough to pay the $5 million for the large 16 m model of the ship that was created, and which weighed 10 tons. To which we also had to add 3.3 million dollars for the framework supporting this monster. The most remarkable thing is that this model was built according to estimates; the wreck of the Titanic having not yet been discovered at the time of the film's production.
Still, the bill was bitter for Lew Grade, producer of the film. “It would have cost less to lower the level of the Atlantic rather than refloating the Titanic” he blurted out to the newspaper.
The bitter failure of the film forced ITC Entertainment to give in to Universal Pictures the catalog and rights to its films previously distributed by its subsidiary, Associated Film Distribution. As the years go by and in poor financial shape, ITC Entertainment was forced to regularly strip itself of assets, until it no longer devoted itself solely to television distribution. The company closed its doors permanently in 1998, upon the death of its founder, Lew Grade.
Final Fantasy, creatures of the mind
Final Fantasy is one of the most famous video game licenses. Born in 1987 and launched by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who has largely entered Pop Culture since then, it is the property of the Japanese publisher Square Enix.
A real martingale and cash machine, with its titles available on all possible supports, and not just on consoles. It is also widely available in the form of OAVs, like the excellent Advent Children, or, more recently, the impressive Kingsglaive.
Released in 2001, produced entirely in computer-generated images by its creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy: Creatures of the Mind marked a revolution in the history of cinema. It was the first feature-length computer-generated image film intended to represent human beings realistically. And the result was, and still remains with its recent move to UHD 4K, very impressive indeed.
Here is the trailer…
If the film was distributed by Sony Pictures, Square had set up a completely new structure to produce the film, Square Pictures. Due to numerous technical constraints, the budget continued to grow as production progressed, ultimately arriving at an astronomical sum, between 137 and 145 million dollars depending on the sources. Relative to inflation, this corresponds to a budget oscillating between $235.8 and $249.6 million.
The film only grossed a little over $85 million at the International Box Office. An absolute disaster, considered one of the biggest failures ever at the Box Office. Not only was Square Pictures liquidated following this fiasco, but the failure was such that it put Square on the verge of bankruptcy. To survive, it was forced to merge in 2003 with its main competitor on the Japanese market, Enix.
Before going out of business and laying off its 125 employees, Square Pictures directed a segment of the collective film Animatrix. A last stand for a sad ending.