Top of the Flops - Why did "The Lone Ranger" & "47 Ronin" fail?By Daniel Kelly
Posted 01/30/14 07:05:18
According to Box-office statistics, 2013 was a pretty stellar year for the film industry, theatres tallying a record-breaking $10.8 billion in revenues. If 2014 were to repeat those numbers it’s unlikely many executives would be crying into their coffee. Yet despite the impressive overall grosses, the year vomited forward several ginormous flops, films with triple-figured budgets, unable to recoup basic production costs, much less turn a profit. The most noted example was Disney’s “The Lone Ranger”; star Johnny Depp blaming its failure on critics, as opposed to the hedonistic $225 million price tag and scrappy screenplay. However that’s only one of 2013’s colossal underperformers, the financially bloated like of “47 Ronin” posting similarly dire returns. Why are these films failing? Is the market overly saturated? Is the buzz too sour? Or are they simply not good enough to get bums in seats?
When it comes to promotion and standing in the trades, both of the aforementioned pictures carried toxic reputations long before they opened. "The Lone Ranger" entered pre-production in 2011 but was temporarily cancelled in August of that year, with Disney uncertain about the escalating costs. Eventually the production was reignited, but the budget remained at a dizzying $225 million. Things weren’t helped by the death of a crew member during principal photography – sullying its reputation prior to word breaking that the final cut wasn’t up to snuff. "47 Ronin" endured an even patchier road to multiplexes. The Samurai epic began shooting in 2011, but the budget quickly ran amok (final estimates put it at $175 million), debut director Carl Rinsch falling out of favour with his higher-ups speedily. Rinsch’s vision adhered to a more traditional oriental aesthetic, Universal growing antsy at his increasingly lavish expenditures, eventually locking him out of the edit in 2012 following extensive reshoots to try and bolster the film’s Western appeal. Adding to its woes were release postponements (the film was originally set for Christmas 2012, it arrived a full-year and one further delay later) and the fact much of its marketing relied on Keanu Reeves, an actor whose marquee value has waned considerably since the 2003 heyday of his “Matrix” sequels. Both flops suffered hard journeys to the screen, but is that enough to explain their lack of fiscal bounty?
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