For many filmmakers, shooting films is simply a passion. They want to tell a story first and put their artistic interpretation on the screen. The main goal for a producer and the studio making the film, though, is to reach as large of an audience as possible and maximize the film’s profits. This has worked with films like “Avatar” or “Avengers” that have had massive budgets, but other films have failed miserably. Several films have lost over a hundred million dollars for their studios, but these three rank as the biggest losers in box office history.
The 2002 novel “Mortal Engines” was a pretty big success after being written by Philip Reeve, and there were some big names attached to the production, including Peter Jackson as a co-writer. The film was released in 2018 as a post-apocalyptic action film, but this adaptation failed miserably. There was a budget estimated to be $150 million for production alone because of expensive special effects.
Part of the film’s problem was a lack of starpower compared to the budget. There weren’t really any A-listers or familiar faces attached to the movie, and the poor reviews added on top of that made it so that there wasn’t a large audience. Even the book wasn’t that popular, and with the massive marketing budget, it’s estimated that “Mortal Engines” pulled in -$174 million in net revenue.
A Wrinkle in Time
While “Mortal Engines” was a successful book, it didn’t have the popularity that “A Wrinkle in Time” did. This book was read by just about every elementary school student in the United States. When they became moviegoing adults with children of their own, the audience was built in. There was no way that “A Wrinkle in Time” could fail as a movie, right?
Wrong. “A Wrinkle in Time” lost an estimated $130 million for the studio upon its 2018 release. The film starred an unknown Storm Reid as the main character, but had plenty of A-listers attached such as Oprah Winfrey, Reeese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine. There was already a large production budget set at $130 million, and the marketing of the film made it so that “A Wrinkle in Time” had to pull in hundreds of millions to make a profit. However, it made just $132 million worldwide. Poor reviews were the ultimate undoing for the movie.
With all of the success that the studio has had throughout the years, Disney was responsible for both “A Wrinkle in Time” and the 2012 remake of “John Carter”. Disney was supremely confident in “John Carter”, especially with director Andrew Stanton at the helm. He’s the man that directed “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E”, both of which are beloved films.
John Carter’s production budget was insane at more than $250 million for an intellectual property that wasn’t that well known. The marketing was even more insane, estimated to be about $350 million, but “John Carter” pulled in $284 million worldwide. That’s a good number for most movies, but not with that budget. There were mixed reviews and the young audience didn’t get the message that it was for them in the marketing, making it a high powered mess for the Mouse.