Just when it seemed like the rest of 2018 would be smooth sailing, two movies arrived at the last minute to make a play for the year’s biggest bomb. This past weekend, the Robert Zemeckis-directed ‘Welcome to Marwen’ was shot down by critics and snubbed by audiences. It made only $2 million on a budget of $39M. This fantasy, based on a true story about a man who survives a brutal attack and copes with his PTSD by building a miniature town in his yard, was being positioned by Universal and Dreamworks as a potential awards hopeful, but after critics trashed it to the tune of a 25% Rotten Tomatoes ranking, those hopes are pretty much dashed.
It certainly doesn’t help that this film opened wide against such stiff competition as ‘Aquaman’, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. Still, ‘Welcome to Marwen’ could have worked as counter-programming for an older audience… if it had been any good. As it stands, it looks like this one will lose over $30M, which is a lot of money, but it’s not as much as the $100M that Universal’s ‘Mortal Engines’ will lose.
Co-financed with Media Rights Capital, ‘Mortal Engines’ originated with producer Peter Jackson and his name was essentially Universal’s sole selling point. But this sci-fi epic, based on a novel series by Philip Reeve, wasn’t set in Middle Earth and wasn’t actually directed by Jackson. Unlike a lot of the flops you will find listed further in this article, ‘Mortal Engines’ did not suffer from any behind-the-scenes drama, and there were no issues with marketing.
Unlike ‘Welcome to Marwen’, ‘Mortal Engines’ didn’t even have any major competition. The #1 movie that weekend was Sony’s animated ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’. There hasn’t been a major live action popcorn flick since arguably ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ about a month ago, but the last bonafide hit was ‘Venom’ at the beginning of October! The right live action tentpole could have really succeeded, but this was not it.
‘Mortal Engines” production budget is a reported $110 million, although insiders claim that it was higher. It made $7.5M during its opening weekend. Experts are saying that once advertising costs are factored in, ‘Mortal Engines’ could lose Universal/MRC $105M, IF it manages to make at least $120M worldwide. But it doesn’t look like it will, so it is projected that this film will ultimately lose around $150M.
Below, you will find the other Biggest Flops of the Year. For simplicity sake, these rankings are based only on production budget and domestic box office. Promotion and advertising spending isn’t normally disclosed, but it is typically equal to, or even more than the production budget. And in some cases, foreign box office can help domestic flops squeak into the black.
But those factors aside, here are the Ten Biggest Genre Box Office Flops of 2018:
Production Budget: $40M
Domestic Gross: $33M
After disastrous test screenings, Paramount knew that ‘Annihilation’ would be a turkey, so rather than spend another penny to advertise a theatrical release, the studio sold the rights to Netflix, but agreed to go ahead and put it out in theaters in the US, Canada, and China. ‘Annihilation‘ got strong reviews but was deemed too cerebral for mainstream audiences.
Production Budget: $34M
Domestic Gross: $13M
Can anyone remember the last truly successful YA film franchise? Maybe it’s time for studios to start shopping in a different section of Barnes & Noble for inspiration. At this point, ‘Us Weekly: The Movie’ would be more enticing.
Production Budget: $30M
Domestic Gross: $6M
Opening on Labor Day weekend, ‘Kin’ was a massive flop, earning just $3 million for that period and vanishing quickly afterward. This was another YA film but was not based on a book. Looking at the poster, it seems that the artist was hoping that some might mistake Jack Reynor for Chris Pratt.
Production Budget: $47M
Domestic Gross: $20M
‘The Happytime Murders‘ languished in development hell for years before finally coming out this August, but perhaps STX Entertainment shouldn’t have bothered. Raunchy puppet humor was already fully realized with the Broadway musical ‘Avenue Q’. How much more was there to say on the matter? Comedies, in general, are struggling, but that can’t be blamed in this case. It was another comedy that took down ‘The Happytime Murders’ — ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.
Production Budget: $250M
Domestic Gross: $213M
This is definitely the highest-profile movie on this list. For a ‘Star Wars’ film, this was an extremely poor showing, and following its lackluster performance, Disney scrapped other planned ‘Star Wars Story’ prequels, including ‘Boba Fett‘ and ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’.
Some blame ‘Solo”s lackluster performance on the fact that it arrived too soon after ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. Others blame ‘The Last Jedi’ itself because it was the most controversial ‘Star Wars’ picture ever. ‘Solo’ was also troubled behind the scenes, with Ron Howard replacing directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord after they’d shot more than half the film. Howard scrapped most of their work and reshot nearly the entire thing, causing the budget to skyrocket.
The picture might have been helped by merchandise sales, but consumers don’t buy toys based on cinematic disasters.
5. The Predator
Production Budget: $88M
Domestic Gross: $51M
‘The Predator‘ opened at #1, but made less than 2010’s ‘Predators’. Chalk this up as another dusty old property that Hollywood needs to let rest. Viewers have clearly lost interest.
4. Tomb Raider
Production Budget: $94M
Domestic Gross: $57M
The same may be said of ‘Tomb Raider’, or perhaps this was just the latest victim of the video game movie curse. Alicia Vikander is an acclaimed actor, but isn’t known well enough to carry a tentpole movie. The reviews weren’t terrible, but ‘Tomb Raider’ opened five weeks after the unstoppable force that was ‘Black Panther‘. To be fair, there was really no way to predict that Marvel flick would be SO powerful at the box office.
Production Budget: $120M
Domestic Gross: $51M
As incredibly successful as so many Disney movies are, every so often they drop a dud and ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ definitely falls into that category. Blame this on marketing, because if you look at Disney’s promotions, it’s clear that the studio saw ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ as its major holiday release and spent way more to sell that film. The Christmas-themed ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ was released too early, on November 2, in order to give ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ space, but who wants a “ho ho ho” movie, when they’re still chomping on Halloween candy and with Thanksgiving still three weeks away?
2. Robin Hood
Production Budget: $100M
Domestic Gross: $22M
It’s time for Hollywood to stop trying to update ancient IPs that are in public domain. This flop followed 2017’s ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’, both co-written by Joby Harold. What’s remarkable, is that Lionsgate “won” the race to get a ‘Robin Hood’ movie in theaters, beating Disney, Sony and Warner Brothers to the punch. These other studios were also developing versions of this legend, but after Lionsgate’s went into production first, the others scrapped theirs. Smart move!
Production Budget: $150M
Domestic Gross: $60M
The first ‘Pacific Rim’ wasn’t a hit, so it’s surprising that Fox ordered a sequel, especially without director Guillermo del Toro running the show. The first movie did okay when foreign grosses were added and it developed something of a cult following on DVD/Blu-Ray, but that wasn’t enough to generate excitement for this Jaegers vs. Kaiju entry. It does hold the distinction of taking over the #1 spot from ‘Black Panther’… for one weekend. After that, the Marvel behemoth reclaimed the title.
There you have it! How many of these have you seen? Should any of them done better, in your opinion?