Oscar-winning disasters that squandered millions of dollars at the box office

Hollywood’s history is riddled with films that were so poor and foolish that they bankrupted companies, ruined careers, and symbolically set fire to millions of dollars.

But what if I told you that the phrase “box office bomb” does not automatically imply a poor film?

Occasionally, films lose tens of millions of dollars due to a combination of strange occurrences, marketing blunders, and other external and internal causes – not because the picture is terrible.

It’s difficult to estimate the amount of these losses. Studios divulge production expenses, but marketing and distribution budgets are rarely disclosed, and are believed to be anywhere from half to even equal to the amount spent creating the picture in the first place.

As a result, the financial statistics we utilized (from Wikipedia, Filmsite.org, and Box Office Mojo) are the most accurate estimations.

Here’s a list of some of the greatest movie office disasters in history that you should see, including a few that you would not expect to find on the list.

John Carter (2012)

This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ century-old sci-fi series cost over $US350 million to produce, but it bombed miserably, losing as much as $US225 million in today’s money.

Within days of the film’s release, Disney took a $US200 million writedown, canceled two sequels, and accepted the departure of Disney studio president Rich Ross.

However, unlike comparable flops such as Battleship (also starring Taylor Kitsch) and Mortal Engines, John Carter received positive reviews.

On reviewer aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, 52% of reviews are positive, while its IMDb audience score is a respectable 6.6 out of 10.

Onward (2020)

Pixar is typically a safe bet (more on that later), but the COVID-19 epidemic was no match for its sad and genuine storytelling.

This enchanting story about two elf brothers attempting to reconcile with their late father was released only two weeks before theatres around the world began to close their doors in March 2020.

Onward ended up losing almost $US131 million, but it’s more than possible that it would have made money if strong word of mouth and excellent reviews had been allowed to do their thing.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the family fantasy has an 88 percent approval rating, which is a low for Pixar but a fantastic outcome.

Ali (2001)

Will Smith received his first Oscar nomination for this biography of boxing superstar Muhammad Ali.

It was also his third straight box office flop, following Wild Wild West and The Legend Of Bagger Vance.

Those two films flopped because they were bad, but it’s difficult to understand why Ali bombed at the box office.

After Heat and The Insider, director Michael Mann was on a roll, Smith’s performance lived up to the anticipation, and Ali was and is a beloved athletic icon throughout the world.

The BFG (2016)

Steven Spielberg has directed films with lower box office returns than this Roald Dahl adaption, but those films did not spend between $US250 million and $US280 million to produce and market.

In reality, the films that are commonly considered as Spielberg’s failures — his military comedy Misfire 1941, the 1989 fantasy Always, and the slavery drama Amistad — all earned back their money at the box office.

The BFG, on the other hand, fell short by about $US87 million to $US107 million.

Despite being a whimsical reminder of how amazing it is when Spielberg creates one of his all-too-rare family films, how smart the late Roald Dahl was with words, and how much pleasure it was to discover both Spielberg and Dahl’s works for the first time as a youngster, this was not the case.

Hugo (2011)

Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Irishman, The Departed, and Taxi Driver are just a few of Martin Scorsese’s films that conjure up images of violence and gangsters.

We don’t usually identify him with family entertainment, which perhaps explain why moviegoers for his wonderful, kid-friendly adaption Hugo were underwhelmed.

The production of this love letter to the beginnings of film and pioneering director George Melies cost almost $US150 million, with another $US120 million spent on promotion. Scorsese’s most expensive film to date, and filming in 3D had a key role in that.

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