Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Biggest Box Office Bombs In 2023

Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament is back. While studios during Covid wildly embraced the theatrical day-and-date model when cinemas were closed, they soon realized there’s nothing more profitable than a theatrical release and the downstreams that come with it. If anything, theatrical is the advertisement for a movie’s longevity in subsequent home entertainment windows. Entering the conversation in 2023 were the streamers, such as Apple, who have also realized the necessity of theatrical to eventize their movies. The financial data pulled together here for Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament is culled by seasoned and trusted sources.

Everyone likes a trend in the movie business, but this one perhaps not so much. Disney for the first time in Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament history dominates the annual bombs section, claiming four of the five (top? bottom?) spots on our 2023 list. Typically, the studio owns a majority of the year’s top 10 most profitable films thanks to Marvel movies, but not this year. A lot of this stems from feeding the beast of streaming service Disney+; the studio’s initial plan during Covid was to shell out $14 billion-$16 billion annually on content by this year. With Bob Iger taking the CEO reins from Bob Chapek, he’s trying to right the ship with a less-is-more strategy, zeroing in on quality so that the No. 1 motion picture studio can come back to form.

Some of you might ask: Where is Apple Original Films on this list? Wouldn’t Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon rank? Several film-finance sources tell us that Apple movies and Disney movies shouldn’t go in the same bucket. The former is a tech company, of which content is a fraction of their revenues. Essentially, any prestige losses made by Apple on movies are seen as advertising expenses to drive eyeballs to its OTT service. Meanwhile, content is king for Disney and drives all other ancillaries, extending to theme parks and cruise ships. Quite often we get the phone call from the studio saying, “You’re not taking into account other merchandise and theme park revenues on these films.” Make no mistake: Films that fall down at the box office don’t have afterlives.

THE FILM

The Marvels
Disney/Marvel
Net Loss: -$237M

When Marvel fanboys and fangirls smell it’s going to be good, they crowd the theater. But when it’s a dud, they stay away. One would think a sequel to a $1.1 billion-grossing female superhero movie would be logical, and asked for. However, The Marvels‘ predecessor, Captain Marvel, benefited at the box office from being a bridge between the Avengers finales Infinity War and Endgame. Yes, the actors strike did pour a lot of cold water on promoting this film, with the thespian standoff ending just days before this sequel’s opening November 10, and star Brie Larson rushing around to late-night shows to tubthump the pic. But there was more. The movie was trying to thread storylines from Disney+ shows like Ms. Marvel, which was part of a grand master plan by Marvel to connect the series with the movies. That strategy showed its holes here as Ms. Marvel wasn’t embraced in a big way by MCU fans ala series like Loki and WandaVision were. Lastly, Marvel has prided itself on hiring indie directors, plugging them into their system and turning them into blockbuster filmmakers (e.g., Jon Watts, Taika Waititi). It’s a recipe that doesn’t always work, evident in this movie (directed by Nia DaCosta) and Marvel’s The Eternals from Nomadland Oscar winner Chloé Zhao. The MCU in its zenith wins over both critics and audiences, and that didn’t happen here, with a 62% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and B CinemaScore.

THE BOX SCORE

THE FILM

The Flash
Warner Bros/DC Studios
Net Loss: -$155M

Released well before the actors strike, it doesn’t help when your leading star is making lots of tabloid headlines, the person here being Ezra Miller. Miller was kept at bay in regards to promoting the DC movie, and the pic’s stars, which included Michael Keaton returning as Batman, were either available in limited doses or shied away from doing press (no one wanted to field questions about Miller). Still, props to the new Warner Bros administration of Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, as well as DC bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran. Although they inherited this movie, they believed in it and propped it all they could as the ultimate DC time-warp movie with cameos from previous superheroes. They even previewed the film early for exhibitors at CinemaCon. Unfortunately, masses didn’t buy the Spider-Man: No Way Home-like stunt here.

THE BOX SCORE

THE FILM

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Disney
Net Loss: -$143M

Harrison Ford reportedly loved the script of this finale, which is why it got made. However, Steven Spielberg passed on directing, handing the reins to James Mangold — a smart choice and able filmmaker given his history with Logan and Ford v. Ferrari. However, something went amiss. In the hands of Disney, the formerly Paramount-distributed Lucasfilm franchise sequel had too many cooks in the kitchen. There were reports of several editors trying to fix the film at the last minute, not to mention there was no attempt to cast-up this older, male-skewing movie ala Top Gun: Maverick with stars that could appeal to the under-40 crowd, which would have expanded the audience. Also a factor: Indiana Jones is always in competition with himself. Despite 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull being the highest-grossing movie in the series with more than $786M worldwide, many weren’t fans with its B CinemaScore and opted to stay away this time around. This was especially so after the sour word of mouth and reviews that came out of Dial of Destiny‘s Cannes world premiere, a promotional maneuver that largely dialed back the commercial prospects of Dial of Destiny.

THE BOX SCORE

THE FILM

Wish
Disney
Net Loss: -$131M

Disney always needs to plant an animated family film in the Thanksgiving corridor; the only problem is that the studio hasn’t seen glory since before Covid with Frozen 2. Wish followed the 2022 bomb Strange World. While original animation is always an uphill battle to launch at the box office, audiences have seen this plug-and-play princess and silly sidekicks (in this case a talking goat and puffy star) movie before, and waited this one out for Disney+ (another potential catalyst for dwindling Disney moviegoing). Audiences and critics smelled that the movie reeked of corporate product rather than magical event. Essentially, a studio is in trouble when its movie’s narrative is more about a celebration of the company’s birthday than a riveting piece of content.

THE BOX SCORE

THE FILM

Haunted Mansion
Disney
Net Loss: -$117M

This movie, which opened July 28, was the first big casualty of the strike with its cast unable to show up at the pic’s Disneyland premiere, which the studio billed as a fan event. Above all, Haunted Mansion burned down because of its release date, opening in the wake of Barbie and ahead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, thus losing out on the younger-skewing audience it wanted. At the end of the day, the 2003 Eddie Murphy version, unadjusted for inflation, made more money with its domestic take of $75.8M and global of $182.2M.

THE BOX SCORE

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