Cutthroat Island Cost $115M To Make, Lost $96M Total

May 28, 2014 by  

Cutthroat Island Cost $115M To Make, Lost $96M Total, DISNEY’S John Carter is set to be the biggest box office flop in history following the studio’s revelation that it is expecting to lose $200million (£126million) on the sci-fi film. Below, we take a look at cinema’s top flops but first let’s analyse what is going on with John Carter. A statement released by Disney said: “In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter ($184million global box office), we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million during our second fiscal quarter ending March 31.

“As a result, our current expectation is that the Studio segment will have an operating loss of between $80 and $120 million for the second quarter. As we look forward to the second half of the year, we are excited about the upcoming releases of The Avengers and Brave, which we believe have tremendous potential to drive value for the Studio and the rest of the company.”

John Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books about a Civil War soldier transported to Mars, is the first live-action feature by Finding Nemo and WALL-E director Andrew Stanton. The cast included Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, Bryan Cranston and Willem Dafoe (with Dafoe unrecognisable because he was turned into a green, four-armed alien by CGI).

Disney’s announcement suggests the sci-fi adventure needed around $380million (the revenue of $184million plus the loss of $200million) to break even.

Around $100million was spent on marketing, meaning the budget was about $280million – which tallies with reports that it cost $250-300million to make.

There are further complexities in that 45-50 per cent of the earnings go to the cinema operators, which backs up earlier gossip that it had to make at least $700million to become profitable.

It’s a bitter blow for devoted fans who have been campaigning for a sequel. Disney’s statement will not only discourage casual viewers from investigating the movie (unless they are curious to see if it deserves such negativity) but will make the property toxic, as the studio would not dare risk a sequel to a film it has publicly declared to be a box office bomb. Nor does it leave its director or stars in a good light.

But it’s worth pointing out that the film has by no means finished its run at multiplexes and there will be further income from DVD, Blu-ray and digital sales and rentals, along with TV licensing.

The overall problem with the production was a lack of restraint – too much was spent on making the movie and, although not a terrible film by any means, it failed to win over critics because it was too long and too convoluted (too many Martian races, including two that were very similar). Tightening up the story, running time and budget would have aided the film’s chances.

John Carter is still in cinemas, so we don’t have a final total of its earnings, but here are the biggest duds to date. John Carter would beat them all to be the worst flop in history, if its figures don’t dramatically improve in the coming weeks.


Based on cash losses for films released prior to John Carter. All losses adjusted to 2012 inflation levels. Source: Wikipedia

1. Cutthroat Island (1995) cost $115m, made $18.5m, adjusted loss = $147million

2. The Alamo (2004) cost $145m, made $26m, adjusted loss = $146.6m

3. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) cost $120m, made $7m, adjusted loss = $145.8m

4. Sahara (2005) cost $241m, made $119m, adjusted loss = $144.8m

5. Mars Needs Moms (2011) cost $175m, made $39m, adjusted loss = $140m

6. The 13th Warrior (1999) cost $160m, made $61.6m, adjusted loss = $137m

7. Town & Country (2001) cost $105m, made $10.3m, adjusted loss = $124.2m

8. Speed Racer (2008) cost $200m, made $94m, adjusted loss = $114.5m

9. Heaven’s Gate (1980) cost $44m, made $3.4m, adjusted loss = $114.2m

10. Stealth (2005) cost $170.8m, made $77m, adjusted loss = $111.7m

Coming in 11th place is Green Lantern, which in 2011 made just under $220m globally despite costs of $325m ($200m budget plus $125m marketing), with an adjusted loss of $108m.

The biggest loss when ranked without adjustments for inflation is Mars Needs Moms, which was left in the red by $136million. Green Lantern then ranks sixth.

Flops can also be judged based on the ratio of revenue against budget rather than the amount of cash involved. This then allows a look at lower-budget independent films.

The Worst Movie Ever! (2011) cost $1m, earning a record low of $11 on its opening weekend, although it did go on to take a total of $5,547.

Zyxzyx Road (2006) cost $1.2m and earned only $30. Just six tickets were sold, including two to the film’s make-up artist and her friend. It was released for just seven days in one theatre in Dallas, apparently to meet union requirements which permit low-budget films to pay actors a lower rate as long as the movie gets a domestic release.

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