What the Summer's 7 Biggest Box-Office Bombs Says About America's Changing Appetite
Thanks mainly to two very huge films (The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises), some overperformers (Ted and Magic Mike) and some reliable mainstays (Spider-Man and Pixar (Brave)), the summer of 2012 was a huge success in terms of overall revenue. But like every summer, this one had its share of box-office flops, but unlike many summers, most of those failures were actually heartening for what they say about the appetites of the American moviegoing public.
Let's take a look (domestic box-office only):
Battleship -- $65 million domestic; $209 million budget ($144 million loss). We've been ridiculing the idea of building a huge blockbuster around a board game since the day this movie was announced, and the film ended up being just as hopelessly bad as we'd predicted. It was part two in the 2012 Trilogy of Failure for Taylor Kitsch (along with John Carter and, less so, Savages), but more importantly, it demonstrated that moviegoers are slightly smarter than Hollywood gives us credit for. Brand recognition may be important, but it's not enough to make up for a movie based on a board game with only a tenuous connection to the actual gameplay. Don't expect the long in-development Clue, Candyland, and Monopoloy movies to progress any further, although unfortunately, the Ouija movie is still in active development.
Total Recall -- $55 million; $125 million budget ($70 million loss). Likewise, America is not above remakes, obviously, but we're clearly over remakes of 80's projects that were decidedly products of their time. You just can't reproduce the cheesy greatness of the 1980s (see, also, The A-Team, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Fright Night) , and no one wants to see a Schwarzenegger original remade without Schwarzenegger (see also Conan the Barbarian). The Robocop remake is already in the works, but I wouldn't expect Hollywood to rush their Commando or Red Sonja remakes. Sadly, it's also not great news for Collin Farrell's big-budget career, either.
MIB 3 -- $178 million; $225 million budget ($47 million loss). Conceding that MIB 3 was a huge worldwide hit (grossing $650 million), I nevertheless wouldn't expect a fourth movie in the series. A decade between installments is too much time (see also the middling TRON: Legacy). Especially when the most previous outing was lackluster, Hollywood can't expect the passage of time somehow to create new buzz.
Rock of Ages -- $38 million; $75 million budget ($37 million loss). Again, Hollywood has to stop mining the 80s for ideas, including both 80's music and Tom Cruise. Personally, I loved Rock of Ages for how cheesy awful it was, but save for CW shows, cheesy is not a quality that most of this generation appreciates.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter -- $37 million; $70 million budget ($33 million loss). This was the first historical revisionism plus a monster out of the gate and it doesn't bode well for the success of future projects in this vein, including Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I thought there was a modest amount of fun to be had in this movie, but audiences aren't responding particularly well to genre mash-ups.
That's My Boy -- $36 million; $70 million budget ($34 million loss). There is both good news and bad here. Audiences do not respond to R-Rated Adam Sandler movies anymore (yay!), but the jury is still out on Sandler family fare (Grown Ups was a huge success, and a sequel is due out next summer).
The Watch -- $33 million; $66 million budget ($33 million loss). You can't really say that Ben Stiller's career is dead, but -- again -- unless he's making family films, audiences are less receptive. Hopefully, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty remake will be the death knell. As for Vince Vaughn's career, well, put a fork in it.