Is 2012 The Year of the Box-Office Bomb?

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Is 2012 The Year of the Box-Office Bomb?

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | October 29, 2012 | Comments ()


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.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Devin McMusters

    I haven't been to a theater for a couple years. Just can't afford it.

  • no one

    It's a given that hollywood is full of idiots. But the one thing I'd expect them to be able to do is make a decent movie. But damn, only one of those "bombs" is even remotely suprising, 'That's My Boy', and not because it's not a shit sandwich of a movie, but because Sandler's fans never seemed to care before. Seriously, look at that list of movies. Who thought any of those were a good idea?

  • Some Guy

    I know it's easy to blame the films for their failure, but from looking at the list it seems to me that the studios are to blame for spending so damn much on marketing, special effects and the stars.

    Dredd was awesome for fans of the genre, but spending 50 million on a lesser known comic character who already had one incarnation as Stallone? Yeah, that's the ticket for success right there. Dredd could have been done for 25-35 million, if not less.

    Or quarter of a billion dollars on John Carter? Again, it was a cool movie, but what audience is there for such a project? What market research actually showed that a relatively unknown book would translate into a popular movie?

    Granted there's no recipe for a successful movie, but certainly a studio could spend a few bucks on focus groups throughout the country to gauge whether or not a movie idea might be popular enough to earn 100 plus million in ticket sales and offset the budget.

    Movies aren't broken, the studios are. If they're willing to invest 100 million on something that's not guaranteed, then it's their fault when they fail.

    If studios spent less on their products, then they make more profit and the losses hurt more. Then theaters can lower ticket prices because the movie companies don't have to offset the volume of sales with the price of the ticket.

  • ed newman

    I would have bet the budget that 21 Jump Street was going to bomb. Instead it was a pretty substantial hit. Remember how many people wrote that Avatar was going to fail and they were going to sink the studio? Because who wanted to watch CGI blue aliens for two and a half hours? The point is you never know. Even with marketing research and built in audiences, you never know. I'm glad the studios throw money at their projects. Sometimes it is worth it. And if it bombs, well, it's not my money.

  • Blake

    Fun Size and Chasing Mavericks - Poor Marketing - Zero appeal (other than Jane Levy).

    Cloud Atlas - Yellow Face - Also Zero appeal (this from someone who saw and liked the The Wachowskis' whitewashed Speed Racer).

  • James

    Half of the fanbase that would go to see Funsize would have the police called on them.

  • valerie

    The problem is definately marketing. I have literally no idea what Cloud Atlas OR Funsize are about. Their trailers are just bloated random clips. I sorta see what Chasing Mavericks is about but there's not enough of a hook there. Not enough stakes for an audience to invest in. You gotta put some kinda plot out there, otherwise why would an audience bother?

  • Lourens Corleone

    Afflecl was the BOMB in Phantoms!

  • danielwcarlson

    Yeah, I think the low numbers for Cloud Atlas boil down to running time, theater allotment, and marketing. A three-hour movie means you turn over fewer crowds than a two-hour one, which means you need to open on more screens if you want to break even. Cloud Atlas opened in 2,008 theaters (, while The Avengers opened in 4,349 ( and Dark Knight Rises was in 4,404 and Hunger Games was in 4,137 (

    Add to that the tricky nature of marketing a convoluted narrative that spans centuries and recycles its cast, plus the fact that a lot of people (as many commenters astutely noted) don't want to put up with more boorish moviegoers unless absolutely necessary, and you're gonna spend $100 million and open to $10 million. Again, box office and quality are two totally different discussions, but I don't know how Cloud Atlas could've had a good opening weekend.

  • Socraz6

    Hopefully it breaks even overseas. I saw it last weekend and thought quite highly of it.

  • blacksred

    due to the high cost and risk of a--holes at the movie theater we are very particular regarding which films to see outside the home. Won't back down is not a movie for instance that requires a movie theater. it may be a great little movie on tbs or redbox. We now only go to the movies for the special effects.

  • Pawesl

    "Fun Size — adjusted for inflation — is now the worst opening of all time for a movie released in over 2,500 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."

    I think an edit needs to be made. Either the first part needs to be changed to 3rd worst opening or the theatre count needs to be changed to 3000.

  • When you think about it, it's kinda/sorta funny: Hollywood makes a load-o-crap film, and then bemoans about people not seeing it. Looks like it's time for another bailout!

  • Irina

    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

    The last Twilight movie will make more than The Hunger Games, Avengers and TDKR combined. And we shall all weep for the future of humanity.

  • Arran

    It'll be huge of course, No it won't.

  • Robert

    I have to wonder how much the freak out over the Frankenstorm impacted the box office results for Cloud Atlas. I know I've been in lock down mode all weekend long waiting for the storm to hit. My NYC friends that have been eagerly anticipating this release didn't rush out, either, because of the weather. The earliest I'll get to see it is Thursday night due to weather and Halloween.

  • DominaNefret

    I went and saw Argo yesterday, the theater was completely packed. People were coming in and groups were having to split up to find seats for everyone. I think that people were, conversely, going out to see movies this weekend to have something to do indoors before the storm hit. I thought the marketing for Cloud Atlas was awful. Nothing I saw gave me the slightest inclination to see it.

  • Marketing must be part of the problem. I'm a junkie for entertainment websites and I'd barely heard of Fun Size and Mavericks. Cloud Atlas was talked up all over the place, but it just didn't sound like something I would like.

    But I think the real blame has to go to the movie-going experience. Too expensive. Assholes talking on cell phones. People bringing their little Honey Boo Boos to hard R movies and letting them run wild. Projection so dim that any scene set at night might as well be in Braille. Etc,

  • GDI

    Alamo Drafthouse and Santikos represent the answer to all those problems. When I was in San Antonio for 4 months, these places were a haven for movie-watching.
    Beer and food is overpriced, but it was nice to have that option in theatre.

  • oilybohunk7

    Don't even get me started on people who bring babies into theaters. BABIES.

  • Blake

    + 1. WTF is it with people? Honestly if you can't go 2 hours without looking at your cell phone than why are you even there? I can understand if you're an on-call transplant surgeon or a transplant patient waiting for a new liver or something, but other that you're probably suffering from nomophobia and need help.

  • mah

    I'm a person on a transplant waiting list, and I SET MY PHONE ON SILENT in the theater. If it goes off, I surreptitously check it and then IGNORE it. No excuses.

  • celery

    Definitely. I'm a movie-going college kid friends with a lot of other movie-going college kid, but the prices at the massive chain theater near out university are absolutely through the roof, twice what they should be, and the $4 water bottles, which I realize don't affect numbers for movie profits but are still part of the experience, simply ensure that I pack before going in.

  • Buck Forty

    Amen to the 2nd paragraph. Theatres should utilize cell phone signal blockers, and anyone who needs an emergency contact (parents with babysitters) can leave their phone at reception, and their seat numbers.

  • googergieger

    I can't remember the last time anyone used a cell phone when I went to the movies. Then again I tend to go early and I tend to speak up if such a case presents itself. Though again, pretty well behaved here in Sunny D California.

  • ed newman

    I'm with you. I can't remember the last time I had distracting moment from someone in the audience. It was probably before cell phones were even invented (yes, I'm old). Obviously no one here would make this shit up, but I've been lucky enough to not have it happen to me.

  • rocky

    Yeah, this. We saw Looper at the cinema and I had to restrain my husband from punching out the doofus in the row behind who wanted to narrate the entire movie to his girlfriend.

    Memo to audience - the cinema is not your living room. STFU.

    I know, it's like arguing with an iceberg

  • I actually really enjoyed John Carter, even if it was a victim of truly dreadful marketing.

    As for Cloud Atlas, as much as I love Tom Hanks, I found it odd that his bits were more memorable than his movie promotion speak. The Full House poetry slam and costume idea bits were GENIUS.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I liked John Carter as well.

  • no one

    Hey look ... um, what's your name, katie mentioned Hanks and I didn't bring up his anti-American doucheness. oh wait.

  • Bernie

    I loved John Carter, and Dredd, they both deserved way better box office.

  • mslewis

    Why the hell are those idiots in Hollywood still paying Gerry Butler to star in movies? And a SURFING moving?? That's about the most ridiculous thing I've heard in years. Can't even imagine renting that piece of sh!t or anything else with him in it. Sorry, didn't mean to rant but some of the movies out these days make me want to barf. (P.S.: Can't wait to see "Argo." I might even pay to see it this week if Sandy keeps away from my area.)

  • ed newman

    How dare you dis Hiccup's dad!

  • Mr_Grumpypants

    I'm also in the 50% who loved Cloud Atlas. I really wish it had done better at the box office.

  • Robert

    Oh I see. Someone who hated Cloud Atlas is down voting any comment that shows enthusiasm for the film rather than actually argue why they believe the quality of the film meant it deserved to flop. Classy.

  • sean

    The key to all of those is that they are terrible. Except Dredd. And Cloud Atlas. Which was extremely well made, but still not very good. Also, even though Battleship sucked, it was online a month before it came out in theaters. I think it would have done better had it not been online. Look how many people paid to see Transformers. Which were far worse movies.

  • googergieger

    Thanks a lot Obama.

  • Sane Blane

    That joke isn't funny more. Just ask Morrisey.

  • googergieger

    I would but I'm not a 90's hipster.

    You just got faced. All over your, umm, face.

  • BWeaves

    Still not funny, sorry.

  • googergieger


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