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The 20 Biggest Financial Failures of All Time (and Their Directors' Post-Failure Careers)

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | June 29, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | June 29, 2010 |

I made another visit to The Numbers website today, and I’ve come back with another interesting list, this time of the biggest financial failures of all time, in terms of absolute money lost.

I should also preface the list with some additional information. The Numbers website based their figures on the fact that the studio only received 50 percent of the box office revenue, which is probably a fairly close estimation. In reality, studios do spend a lot of money on marketing, which is not reflected in the production budget. Moreover, studios do not receive 100 percent of the the box office revenue. It is my recollection that studios generally receive around 80 percent of the revenue for the first week or two, and the percentage decreases the longer a movie stays in the theater. This is why budget theaters exist: They can charge much less for ticket prices because they only have to return 20 or 30 percent of the receipts back to the studio because the film is in its 7th or 8th week of the run (or in some cases, much later). Of course, while budget theaters get 70 or 80 percent of the ticket sales, the prices are only $1 to $5, so in the case of both first-run and budget theaters, the large majority of the revenue comes from concessions, which is why you pay $6 for a bag of popcorn.

With that in mind, here are the 20 biggest financial failures of all time, in terms of studio loss. And there are some whoppers, especially number one, which is surprising not in the dismal box-office receipts, but that it cost $100 million to make a fairly generic comedy without any huge star power, as neither Warren Beatty nor Diane Keaton were exactly huge draws in 2001.

(Note, also, that worldwide box office grosses are used, and not simply domestic):

1. Town & Country (Budget: $105,000,000; Box Office: $10,364,769) Loss: - $99,817,616

2. Stealth (Budget: $138,000,000; Box Office: $76,416,746) Loss: -$99,791,627

3. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (Budget: $100,000,000; Box Office: $7,094,995) Loss: -$96,452,503

4. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within(Budget: $137,000,000; Box Office: $85,131,830) Loss: -$94,434,085

5. The 13th Warrior (Budget: $125,000,000; Box Office: $61,698,899) Loss: $94,150,551

6. Evan Almighty (Budget: $175,000,000 ; Box Office: $173,219,280) Loss: -$88,390,360

7. Sahara (Budget: $145,000,000; Box Office: $121,671,925) Loss: -$84,164,038

8. The Alamo (Budget: $92,000,000; Box Office: $23,911,362) Loss: - $80,044,319

9. The Wolf Man (Budget: $150,000,000; Box Office: $142,354,624) Loss: - $78,822,688

10. A Sound of Thunder (Budget: $80,000,000; Box Office: $6,300,451) Loss: - $76,849,775

11. Windtalkers (Budget: $115,000,000; Box Office: $77,628,265) Loss: -$76,185,868

12. Around the World in 80 Days (Budget: $110,000,000; Box Office: 72,004,159) Loss: -$73,997,921

13. Speed Racer (Budget: $120,000,000; Box Office $93,394,462) Loss: -$73,302,769

14. Home on the Range (Budget: $110,000,000; Box Office: $76,482,461) Loss: -$71,758,770

15. Alexander (Budget: $155,000,000; Box Office: $167,297,191) Loss:-$71,351,405

16. Son of the Mask (Budget: 100,000,000; Box Office: $59,918,422) - $70,040,789

17. Poseidon (Budget: $160,000,000; Box Office: $181,674,817) Loss -$69,162,592

18. Father’s Day (Budget: $85,000,000; Box Office: $35,681,080) Loss: -$67,159,460

19. Daddy Day Camp (Budget: $76,000,000; Box Office: $18,197,398) Loss: -$66,901,301

20. Ali (Budget: $109,000,000; Box Office: $84,383,966) Loss: - $66,808,017

Again, I’d like to look at the directors responsible for the above films and ask the question: How did a director responsible for one of the 20 biggest financial failures of all time do after the release of the failed movie? Did they redeem themselves, and did the studio entrust the director with that much money again?

1. Town & Country: While Town & Country essentially ended the career of Warren Beatty (he hasn’t made a movie since), director Peter Chelsom hasn’t faded into obscurity. He’s since made Serendipity, Shall We Dance, and Hannah Montana: The Movie, the first two of which made in the $50 million range, and the latter which scored $80 million. Of course, retroactively, you have to wonder how the director of Hannah Montana: The Movie was once given $100 million to make a movie.

2. Stealth. Director Rob Cohen is doing just fine, unfortunately. He has since made The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which grossed over $400 million worldwide, and he’s in the process of making a xXx sequel.

3. The Adventures of Pluto Nash: This failure was on Eddie Murphy, but all the same, director Ron Underwood has been relegated to television directing work since the failure of Nash and his obscure, unseen follow-up, Stealing Sinatra, with David Arquette and William H. Macy.

4. The Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: Since the failure of The Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi has gone back from where he came: directing video games. He’s not directed a feature since.

5. The 13th Warrior: Thanks likely to the fact that his The Thomas Crown Affair affair came out the same year, Die Hard director John McTiernan was allowed a couple more stabs at the apple after The 13th Warrior, failing on both counts with Rollerball (another financial disaster) which lost about $55 million and Basic, which didn’t do much better. He’s currently working on a movie called The Camel Wars, but he wasn’t allowed near the Die Hard franchise again.

6. Evan Almighty: Director Tom Shadyac was once something of the It guy for comedies (Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Patch Adams), but he hasn’t made anything in the three years since Evan and last I heard, I believe he was working on an HBO movie about Sam Kinison with Dan Fogler attached.

7. Sahara: Director Breck Eisner is the son of Michael Eisner, so you knew he’d get another chance after the massive failure of Sahara. He made this year’s Crazies, which did all right for itself ($40 million box office on a $16 million budget), and he’s currently working on that remake of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York.

8. The Alamo: Director John Lee Hancock had the balls to make an action movie where everyone dies in the end, and five years later, he finally got to work again. He directed last year’s The Blind Side, which made $307 million worldwide, though I wouldn’t given the director too much credit for that success.

9. The Wolf Man: The Wolf Man lost $80 million, so how do you punish the director of that movie, Joe Johnston? You give him the reins to Captain America: The First Avenger, of course. This despite the fact that the movie he made before The Wolf Man, Hidalgo, lost his studio about $45 million. Fool me once. Shame on you. Fool me twice. Give him a Marvel franchise.

10. A Sound of Thunder. Director Peter Hyams followed up his 2005 failure with last year’s Michael Douglas film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Yeah. I don’t remember it, either. It made $32,000 on a $25 million budget. Yikes. Percentage-wise, I believe that’s an even bigger failure than A Sound of Thunder.

11. Windtalkers: Director John Woo got another crack at the box-office after Windtalkers, with Ben Affleck’s Paycheck, which managed to barely break even once worldwide grosses were accounted for. Woo has since returned to his home country to direct great films like Red Cliff. which had a record-breaking opening weekend in Asia.

12. Around the World in 80 Days: Director Frank Coraci is doing all right. He made 2006’s Click and is working on Kevin James’ follow-up to Paul Blart, The Zookeeper. He’ll make money, but it doesn’t make him a good director.

13. Speed Racer: The Wachowskis haven’t released a film in the two years since Speed Racer’s financial failure. As I recall, they’re currently working on a moderate to low budget film mostly in secret.

14. Home on the Range: Directors Will Finn and John Sanford have made a few direct to video cartoons since the failure of Home on the Range.

15. Alexander: The failure of Alexander didn’t slow down director Oliver Stone. He made W., World Trade Center, and Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps is due out later this year.

16. Son of the Mask: And that was the end of Lawrence Guterman’s career as a director.

17. Poseidon: Director Wolfgang Peterson hasn’t made anything since the 2006 film, but he’s got a few movies early in development, including a movie based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em, as we reported last week.

18. Father’s Day: Unfortunately, Ivan Reitman continues to make movies, including Six Days Seven Nights and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Worse still, he will likely direct Ghostbusters 3 if anyone ever decides to force production forward on it (I think the studio is trying to hold out until Reitman dies).

19. Daddy Day Camp: Ouch. I’d completely forgotten that Fred Savage directed this (Yes: that Fred Savage). He hasn’t made any movies since; however, he has become one of the best television directors around, directing episodes of “Party Down” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Keep away from the family stuff, Savage.

20. Ali: I had no idea Ali lost that much money. Anyway, though he fucked up Miami Vice, director Michael Mann is doing just fine, having also directed Collateral and Public Enemies.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.