A lot goes into making a film. A lot figures into a film’s critical or financial success. And yes, there’s also a lot that figures into its failure. And 2012 had no shortage of stinkers in any category.
Sure, there’s a lot of people pointing fingers at BATTLESHIP, CLOUD ATLAS and ROCK OF AGES when it comes to being a financial bomb. But none of those films, no matter how underwhelming their box office, was the biggest bomb of the year.
As far as just the lowest number possible, it would be hard to top PLAYBACK, a horror film that got a one week release in a single movie theatre. The film starred Johnny Pacar (MAKE IT OR BREAK IT), Toby Hemmingway (THE SILENT THIEF, THE COVENANT), Ambyr Childers and in a supporting role, Christian Slater. The film was distributed by Magnolia’s subsidiary, Magnet Films, within the United States.
The film earned a whopping $264 during its release. No, that’s not a typo. To add insult to injury, $252 came from the film’s opening night (where it’s assumed interested parties came to see their work) and the film only scrounged up an addition twelve dollars during the entire week that followed. The film premiered on VOD services soon afterward.
With a gross that low, PLAYBACK holds a dubious distinction. But with a $7.5 million budget, it’s not as if they broke the bank to make the film. No, for the biggest bombs of 2012, you have to look at the cost-to-earning ratio. As to what that is, it depends on who you’re asking.
The most money lost was undoubtedly Disney’s JOHN CARTER. Based on the classic pulp series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film buried its pedigree, changed its title, had bland advertising and seemed unsure of what audience it was going for. As for people who actually watched the film, it only got worse. The film was the live-action debut for director Andrew Stanton, who directed the excellent PIXAR films FINDING NEMO and WALL-E. The film cost a whopping $250 million to make, one of the biggest budget films in Disney’s history. Although it wound up earning $282 million worldwide, Disney quickly fired the people in charge of marketing the film and announced a $200 million loss on the film.
All the same, this is not the film we are calling the biggest bomb of 2012. For us, the biggest bomb of 2012 would be a film that cost a hefty bundle to make and underperformed on a truly epic scale.
By that definition, there was no disaster greater than the misguided attempt to create a new Teletubbie-like phenomenon for American children. By virtually everyone’s estimation, THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE was more disturbing and grating than entertaining. The film was designed as an interactive experience for very young children to experience in the movie theatre. In short, while most people don’t like it when people talk in the theatre, THE OOGIELOVES encouraged the audience to be as unruly as possible and used that as its major advertising hook. Parents took one look at THE OOGIELOVES and either decided that they loved their children too much or not enough to subject them to that.
THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE certainly wasn’t as high-profile as JOHN CARTER, but they did spend a lot of time and money on it. The film was completed in 2009, but held from the release as the producer went through the process of patenting all the interactive gimmicks within the film. They even tried to rename the month of August (check out the trailer below for that).
It boasted a cast of notable actors, all of whom with character names that would look embarrassing on anyone’s resume. The film starred Cary Elwes as Bobby Wobbly, Christopher Lloyd as Lero Sombrero, Jamie Pressly as Lola Sombrero, Chloris Leachman as Dotty Rounder, Toni Braxton as Rosalie Rosebud and Chaz Palminteri as Marvin Milkshake. Really, Chazz? Marvin Freakin’ Milkshake?!?
THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE cost $20 million to make and around twice that to market, bringing its total budget to approximately $60 million. The film got a huge opening, but only managed to earn $1 million during its entire release. The film set a record for the worst opening of any film premiering on over 2,000 screens – a lousy $444,000 in its opening weekend. It also set a record for the worst per theatre average for any film released on over 1,000 screens – $206 per screen (yes, that’s worse than the previously discussed PLAYBACK). Reportedly the only other 2,000+ screen film to perform poorer during its release was the 2008 film DELGO. But that’s still a misnomer, as OOGIELOVES stayed in theatres nearly three times as long as DELGO.
Yep, for the biggest bomb of 2012 in our book, just look at the grinning faces of the Oogieloves. Look at them and shudder.