The Biggest Box Office Bombs of 2011

As the publication does every year, The Hollywood Reporter has made a list of the Top 15 box office bombs of 2011. The definition of “bomb” is based on a comparison of each movie’s budget versus its worldwide box office total. However, as we know, just because a movie didn’t make any money doesn’t mean it was bad. Did all of these movies deserve their sad fate? (Most of them, probably.)

The THR list can be found here. Please note that I’ve excluded ‘Happy Feet Two’ and ‘New Year’s Eve’, because both are still in theaters and earning money. ‘New Year’s Eve’ had only grossed $54.9 million at the time of the list, but is currently up to a solid $131.8 million, based on a budget of $59 million. ‘Happy Feet’ looks more like a bomb ($122.8 million gross based on a $130 million budget).

Mars Needs Moms‘ (Budget: $150 million, Worldwide Gross: $39 million) – After seeing how much of a domestic flop ‘A Christmas Carol’ was (earning $137.8 million on a $200 million budget), Disney was foolish to greenlight another creepy, dead-eyed Robert Zemeckis mo-cap movie. Yes, ‘Mars Needs Moms’ was far from great, but I personally didn’t think it was bad enough to become the biggest flop of the year. Considering how many half-assed kids’ movies are released each year now that they’re easy to pump out, studios need to go the extra mile to make sure that the content is audience friendly. ‘Mars Needs Moms’ may not be great, but it’s a helluva lot better than those ‘Hoodwinked’ movies.

The Thing‘ (Budget: $38 million, Worldwide Gross: $27.4 million) – This is one title that baffles me. I’ve read plenty of reviews and comments that completely bash ‘The Thing’ prequel, both from fans and haters of the John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’. Yet I and everyone I know who saw it (including critics) all enjoyed this movie thoroughly. Personally, I believe the lack of marketing hurt any chance the film had at becoming a success. That, and audiences chose to see that damn third ‘Paranormal Activity’ movie over ‘The Thing’. But I don’t know why everyone online seems to hate it so much when everyone I know in real life found it entertaining. This is one that I simply don’t get.

The Big Year‘ (Budget: $41 million, Worldwide Gross: $7.4 million) – Because ‘The Big Year’ is a movie made for old folks, the worldwide gross gives us insight into one small fact: Old people only contribute $7.4 million to the worldwide box office.

The Rum Diary‘ (Budget: $45 million, Worldwide Gross: $21.6 million) – ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ only grossed $10.6 million domestically on an $18.5 million budget. Why would another oddball Hunter S. Thompson adaptation be expected to do any better?

Anonymous‘ (Budget: $30 million, Worldwide Gross: $14.8 million) – I didn’t see ‘Anonymous’, so I can’t comment on it. But neither did the rest of the world. I believe the world was all on the same page with this one. Why would we want to watch a supposedly-factual film that exposes the brilliant William Shakespeare as a fraud from the guy who gave us ‘10,000 B.C.’ and ‘2012’?

Conan the Barbarian‘ (Budget: $90 million, Worldwide Gross: $48.8 million) – Not screened for press, I also didn’t see ‘Conan’. Considering that I gave up on ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and ‘Magic the Gathering’ a long time ago, there was no need to relapse with this all-too-serious ‘Conan’ remake. The only ‘Conan’ I’m interested in is O’Brien. By the way, have you seen ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ yet? You should.

The Rest

Sucker Punch‘ (Budget: $82 million, Worldwide Gross: $89 million)
Arthur‘ (Budget: $40 million, Worldwide Gross: $45.7 million)
Green Lantern‘ (Budget: $200 million, Worldwide Gross: $219.9 million)
Cowboys & Aliens‘ (Budget: $163 million, Worldwide Gross: $178.8 million)
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie‘ (Budget: $9 million, Worldwide Gross: $18.7 million)
I Don’t Know How She Does It‘ (Budget: $24 million, Worldwide Gross: $30.5 million)
Tower Heist‘ (Budget: $75 million, Worldwide Gross: $126.3 million)

Strictly looking at the budget numbers, the movies in this group would appear to be in the green. However, the conventional Hollywood rule-of-thumb has it that a movie needs to gross about two-and-a-half to three times its budget to break even. [Ed: The official production budget doesn’t account for marketing and distribution costs, the cut of the profits that theaters take, Mob payoffs and labor union bribes, or the countless shady back-end profit participation deals that inflate the cost of making any movie today. –JZ]

‘Sucker Punch’ is not a great film, but after the flop of ‘Watchmen’, why in the world would Warner Bros. give Zack Snyder so much money to work with? ‘Watchmen’ had a small and specific niche audience that would see the film no matter what, and it still bombed (domestic box office of $107 million, budget of $130 million). ‘Sucker Punch’ was an original piece of work from a director that had only seen success because he made movies based on already-established material (which is probably why he was handed his currently-filming project, the new ‘Superman’ movie, ‘Man of Steel’). I doubt the studio will make that mistake again.

‘Arthur’ was truly horrible and deserves to be on worst-of lists.

‘Green Lantern’ wasn’t great, but it couldn’t have been too much of a flop since Warner Bros. has already announced that a sequel was in the works.

‘Cowboys & Aliens’ wasn’t all that successful because it was pure mediocrity. It seems like the perfect example of a bunch of great minds all working on the same project, yet not a single one of them had any passion for it. The film was merely a job they had to do. It deserved what it earned – a mediocre box office return.

‘Glee’ sure didn’t do what Fox hoped it would, but what did the studio really expect? Why would your network television fan base, which doesn’t have to pay to watch your weekly show, all of a sudden want to race out to pay steep 3D ticket prices to see a staged version of that same show?

As I researched numbers on my own, I found a bunch of other flops that didn’t make the THR list:

The Dilemma‘ (Budget: $70 million, Worldwide Gross: $69.7 million)
Red State‘ (Budget: $4 million, Worldwide Gross: $1 million)
Take Me Home Tonight‘ (Budget: $19 million, Worldwide Gross: $6.9 million)
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil‘ (Budget: $30 million, Worldwide Gross: $16.9 million)
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night‘ (Budget: $20 million, Worldwide Gross: $4.6 million)
The Conspirator‘ (Budget: $25 million, Worldwide Gross: $15.3 million)
Your Highness‘ (Budget: $49.9 million, Worldwide Gross: $24.8 million)
Passion Play‘ (Budget: $15 million, Worldwide Gross: $3,369 [not million])
The Beaver‘ (Budget: $21 million, Worldwide Gross: $6.3 million)
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer‘ (Budget: $20 million, Worldwide Gross: $15 million)
Dream House‘ (Budget: $50 million, Worldwide Gross: $38.5 million)
Killer Elite‘ (Budget: $70 million, Worldwide Gross: $52.9 million)
Straw Dogs‘ (Budget: $25 million, Worldwide Gross: $10.3 million)
Warrior‘ (Budget: $25 million, Worldwide Gross: $23 million)
Buck Larson: Born to be a Star‘ (Budget: $10 million, Worldwide Gross: $2.5 million)

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]


  1. JM

    What about ‘Hugo’?

    Grossing $60M worldwide off a $170M budget, with a 5-Star film, is shameful.

    Do parents not teach their children who the fuck Martin Scorsese is?

    Maybe film criticism should be a part of the national K-12 curriculum.

    • Drew

      You can’t say that ‘Hugo’ only grossed $60M worldwide.

      It hasn’t been released in many major overseas markets.

      No. Parents do not teach their kids just who in the fuck Marty Scorsese is. I’m the exception. I made sure my oldest son understands what is at stake when a new Scorsese comes out.

      I will make sure that my daughter, and my youngest son gain an understanding when the time comes.

      Cinematic art history should certainly be a part of the national K-12 curriculum. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that film criticism should be though.

      • JM

        I don’t mean the intellectual bullshit form of film criticism, I mean schooling kids in the craft of filmmaking and storytelling, i.e. useful skills.

        • The skill of storytelling is useless without learning the “intellectual bullshit,” such as being able to think critically about what their stories mean.

          A lack of that kind of intellectual bullshit is why so many movies today suck. Let’s encourage our children to be better than this.

          • Drew

            Stop taking blog comments so seriously.

            Learn how to read between the lines, and look at the context of the conversation in which the comment is being left.

            You’re utterly misunderstanding Jane.

            Jane has probably left about 3,452,876 comments (number is approximate) on the HDD bonus view, and you still fail to recognize that practically all of her comments contain a certain amount of sarcasm (she refers to it as being flirtatious).

            Jane was never short-changing you and your precious intellectual dynamism.

            Try not to be so sensitive. 😉

          • JM

            “Let’s read ‘Moby Dick’ and talk about symbolism” does not teach you how to write literature.

            “Now let’s look at ‘The Social Network.” This is how to write dialogue. This is how to use story structure techniques to manipulate emotion…

            We have an excess of Roger Eberts, and a shortage of David Finchers. That’s why so many of our movies suck.

            You can’t give a lecture about samurai sword making. You have to sit them down at the forge, show them the fundamentals, and let them craft.

            You count their hours. It takes 10,000 hours to be a professional. It takes 50,000 hours to be a master craftsman. It takes 100,000 hours to be a god.

            And just to be clear, I am pro-intellectual.

            I am simply anti-bullshit. 🙂

          • Jane, as you well know, David Fincher didn’t write The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin did. I can guarantee you that Sorkin has read and analyzed the symbolism in Moby Dick.

            Other than the mechanical act of scribbling on paper or typing on a keyboard, you can’t learn how to write by sitting over someone’s shoulder and watching them do it. You need to be able to break down the writing, word by word, and thoroughly understand the usage and arrangement of each one.

            > “Let’s read ‘Moby Dick’ and talk about symbolism” does not teach you how to write literature.

            In fact it does. Any writer will tell you as much.

          • Ah, an old trap I’m not foolish enough to step into.

            My screenplays from film school are not something I share, any more than you’d want to share your old college term papers. I have not had the interest or desire to complete one since. This has no relevance as to whether I’m aware of how the process works.

          • JM

            Based on your bio, I thought you were still screenwriting.

            Why did you quit?

            Some of your tv recaps are more entertaining than entire films.

      • Drew


        This is exactly what I gathered from your first, and much shorter reply.

        I’m sorry you had to post again — this time long winded — so that Josh could understand what you were saying. 😉

        I couldn’t agree more.

  2. I spotted Mars Needs Moms on TV last week, and watched it for a bit of fun. It wasn’t half bad! Annoying in places, but overall it had more going for it than Zemeckis’ other horrible 3D films. But I hadn’t realised it had a budget of £150!! Yikes! I thought the whole point with all the mocap stuff was that the lack of sets should make things cheaper for the most part (barring rubbish like Avatar). Mars Needs Moms certainly shouldn’t have cost that much. It would’ve been cheaper to make live action!! (And that would’ve avoided the ‘dead-eye’. 😉

    I’m curious to see ‘Hugo’, but since I don’t actually like most Scorsese films, I’m in no rush. (Admittedly, I’ve yet to see Kundun and The Aviator, which I’m curious to see). His most recent that I saw was Shutter Island, and what a mediocre mess that was!

  3. Brain Stew'd

    SuckerPunch and Watchmen both made back their budgets and more when DVD sales were figured in. I understand that we’re talking about Box Office bombs but when you question why a particular writer or director was given leeway for his/her new feature it would be a mistake not to mention the post theater markets which now make up a huge part of a movie’s business.

  4. $3,369 for Passion Play? Really? It seems like a tough task to make such a small amount. Even if just 500 people see your movie, you have a higher box office gross than Passion Play!

      • Which of these movies had you not heard of? Green Lantern? Arthur? Cowboys & Aliens? These aren’t obscure, poorly marketed movies. The only limited-release films on the list are Anonymous and The Big Year, and both got a fair amount of press coverage. I think perhaps you just weren’t paying attention. 🙂

        • Anonymous, The Big Year, The Rum Diary, I Don’t Know How She Does It, The Dilema, Take Me Home Tonight, The Conspiritor, Your Highness, Passion Play, Judy Moody, Killer Elite, Straw Dogs, Warrior, and Buck Larson. Haven’t heard of a single one of those.

          • The only one of those movies that didn’t get a wide release with plenty of advertising was Passion Play. We covered many of those titles here in the blog.

      • EM

        I keep forgetting which movie Anonymous is, probably because the title encourages ignorance. (Also because, when I am reminded of what movie it is, I feel underwhelmed.)

  5. Drew

    The order of my replies got fucked up somehow…

    JM, I was telling you that I agree 100% in that case.

    Josh, the other two comments were meant for you.