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The Biggest Bombs and the Most Profitable Movies of 2023, So Far

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 17, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 17, 2023 |


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We’ve been talking a lot lately about the expense of movies these days, and how those blockbusters with massive budgets have been eating into profits. I was curious about just how much those profits were being eaten into, and if movies with smaller budgets were more profitable. The answers were both interesting and telling.

I’ll start with the breakdown. Here’s the formula: Movie theaters take about half the grosses, so I’ve taken the box office, divided it by two, and subtracted the movie’s budget. Yes, there is also a massive marketing budget that adds on to the costs, but I am going to assume that VOD and other digital rentals and sales at least cover the marketing budget (Universal, after all, has made $1 billion in the last three years on those $20-$25 rentals, alone). This is not an exact science, but it’s a decent approximation.

I’ve applied the formula only to the top 20 films in terms of Worldwide Box Office so far, this year (excluding a couple of films that only played well outside of the United States). I’m also not including several films that are still in theaters, although I am including Insidious because it’s already in the black.

Here were the year’s biggest box-office grossers broken down by profitability:

1. Super Mario Bros: $572 million
2. Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse: $231 million
3. Guardians of the Galaxy 3: $171 million
4. John Wick 4: $113 million
5. Evil Dead Rise: $67 million
6. Creed III: $62 million
7. Scream VI: $49 million
8. Insidious: The Red Door (still in theaters): $45 million
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: $38 million
10. The Little Mermaid: $23 million
11. The Pope’s Exorcist; $19 million
12. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts: $15 million
13. Cocaine Bear: $12 million
14. Fast X: $12 million
15. The Boogeyman: ( -$2 million)
16. 65 ( -$15 million)
17. Shazam! Fury of the Gods: ( -$33 million)
18. Air: ( -$40 million)
19. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: ( -46 million)
20. The Flash: ( -$69 million)

It is definitely worth noting that 7 of the top 8 films had budgets of $100 million or less.

It’s also worth noting that Air, which cost over $80 million to produce for some ungodly reason, was probably considered a success because it made its budget back in theaters, and Prime Video adding it to their streaming service within a few weeks was probably worth the $40 million it “lost.”

The biggest profits mostly came among the huge blockbusters with big budgets, but the biggest bombs also came among the blockbusters with big budgets.

It’s also interesting to note that, in terms of profitability, Fast X and Cocaine Bear earned approximately the same amount of profit. I wonder why risk-averse studios aren’t interested in producing more $35 million movie with huge upsides and less risk like Cocaine Bear than putting $300 million at risk to make another Fast and Furious movie?

There are also four films still in theaters that I think are worth mentioning. Jennifer Lawrence’s No Hard Feelings will likely break even in theaters, and will probably do very well on digital. Elemental was written off after its opening weekend but it continues to have strong legs. It may come close to breaking even. Indy V is already fading after $300 million worldwide (on a $295 million budget), while I think Mission Impossible will probably have great legs, and the fact that it earned $235 million worldwide on its opening weekend suggests that it will almost certainly break even, if not become a decently sized hit. Indy, on the other hand, may battle it out with The Flash for the biggest bomb of the year, profit-wise:

No Hard Feelings: (- $6 million)
Elemental: (- $44 million)
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: (- $144 million)
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning: (- $177 million)

I don’t want to talk about Sound of Freedom but Sound of Freedom has already earned $23 million in profit after two weekends. It may break the top five in profit for the year, so far, which at least illustrates the value of low-budget films targeting very specific demographics.

Finally, a few movies that fell way outside of the top 20 are worth mentioning, too, because they were major flops that haven’t gotten a lot of attention. I’m really sad about Are You There God? because that was a fantastic movie, although it seems like the kind of movie that we may still be talking about in 20 years. Not so much the other two. Ouch.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret ($ -20 million)
Renfield ( -$52 million)
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken ($ -53 million)