Is 2012 The Year of the Box-Office Bomb?
There were three notable bombs this weekend: The Wachowskis' Cloud Atlas is obviously considered the most high-profile flame-out, but two other wide releases -- Fun Size and Chasing Mavericks -- failed to even crack the top 10, despite being released into a large number of theaters. In fact, Fun Size -- adjusted for inflation -- is now the worst opening of all time for a movie released in over 2,500 theaters. For movies released in over 2,000 theaters, Chasing Mavericks now owns the title of the 9th worst opening.
I've been writing a lot of "all time worst openings" lists this year in my box-office round-ups.
The strange irony here is that it's been a fairly strong year at the box office, buoyed by some legitimately huge movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games, and surprise hits like Ted, Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street, modest sleeper hits like Think Like a Man, Looper, Chronicle, not to mention word-of-mouth hits like Argo, which pulled the rare feat this weekend of landing the number one spot in its third weekend of release with $12.3 million on a weak weekend.
Yet, it seems, there's a proliferation of bombs this year. Consider these 2012 titles:
Dredd -- $13 million domestic ($50 million budget)
John Carter -- $73 million domestic ($250 million budget)
Battleship -- $65 million domestic ($209 million budget)
Total Recall -- $58 million domestic ($125 million budget)
Rock of Ages -- $38 million domestic ($75 million budget)
That's My Boy -- $36 million domestic ($70 million budget)
Cloud Atlas -- $9 million opening ($100 million budget)
Oogieloves In The BIG Balloon Adventure ($443,000) -- The worst opening of all time for a movie opening in over 2,000 theaters.
Won't Back Down ($2.6 million) -- The worst opening of all time for a movie opening in over 2,500 theaters.
Fun Size ($4.9 million) -- Third worst opening of all time among movies released in over 3,000 theaters. The worst opening of all time once adjusted for inflation for movies released in over 3,000 theaters.
Chasing Mavericks ($2.2 million) -- The 9th worst opening of all time for a movie opening in over 2,000 theaters. Adjusted for inflation, the third worst opening of all time for movies in over 2,000 theaters.
Hit and Run ($4.5 million) -- The 18th worst opening of all time for a movie opening in over 2,500 theaters;
The Words ($4.7 million) -- The 24th worst opening of all time for a movie opening in over 2,500 theaters.
There's been more bombs this year than shout outs to Ben Affleck for his work in Phantoms. Why? Bad marketing, poor release strategies, and in many cases, simply bad products (I am, however, among the roughly 50 percent who loved Cloud Atlas, though I understand why it failed, and a lot of it had to do with the nearly three hour runtime). In some instances, unfortunately, it's a reminder of why Hollywood relies so heavily on sequels and known properties; why would Fun Size or Chasing Mavericks do well? There's no brand recognition, and very little star power, although star power didn't do a damn thing for Rock of Ages. Original ideas are great, but they also need to be good.
Still, people gravitate toward known entities, although many of this year's hits can be attributed to the power of the critic: Movies like Argo, Looper, and Moonrise Kingdom owe their success to strong reviews (and being movies good enough to warrant strong reviews). That is to say, critics aren't completely irrelevant. But when the studios give us movies with no built-in audiences like Mavericks, Won't Back Down, and Fun Size, there's not much we can do when the movies blow. On the other hand, the three top movies of the year were well known brands and were good movies, which demonstrates that audiences value quality as much as recognition. It doesn't have to be an original property to be an original movie, though wants to bother with original movies, it's in their best interets to ensure they're also good.