Typically when someone says a movie was a ‘flop’ they mean that it didn’t make as much money as it cost, so the whole thing was a big loss. A great example would be John Carter by Disney which made $284 million at the box office but cost about $300 million to make, so it’s a flop even though a lot of people went to see it. This means that movies which everyone actually liked, and which loads of people went to see at the cinema, can still count as ‘flops’ because they just cost too much to make. It happens, and it can mean that a film you love gets branded a failure even though it was good, and people liked it.
But every now and again a film releases and no one goes to watch it. It’s not a case of “the budget was too high” it’s just a case of, “holy cow literally no one came”. Now that’s a box office bomb! Sometimes the film deserves it, sometimes it’s just bad luck, but it’s almost always really interesting to see a film make less than $150 at the box office in the same way a good car crash is interesting. So, in the name of watching things crash and burn, we bring you seven films that made less than $150 at the box office.
1. Zyzzyx Road - $30
There was a time when Katherine Heigl was a hot property in Hollywood. Unfortunately, after an unpleasant departure from Gray’s Anatomy, and a public spat with filmmaker Judd Apatow and comedy star Seth Rogen, she has increasingly been left at the wayside. Rumour has it that she’s very difficult to work with, and she left Gray’s Anatomy under the belief that she was too good for the show. Whatever the reason was, Katherine Heigl eventually started to disappear from film and television alike, and Zyzzyx Road (no that’s not a typo) is one of the biggest checkpoints on that road to ruin.
To give you a sense of perspective, just six people saw this film in theatres. To be fair it had a limited release, but it was out there for at least a week and in that time only six people bothered to buy tickets. That’s… that’s not good.
2. Storage 24 - $72
Who is in this film? What is it about? Why should I watch it? These are questions you’ll probably ask every time you see a new film about to come out. Looking at Storage 24 most people replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know”. In other words no one knew what it was about, it had no big name stars, and it didn’t do a very good job of telling people why it was worth their time. “We had no money,” said creator Noel Clarke in a later interview, which is a pretty big problem for a film which needs posters, trailers, bill-boards, and press-tours to build up hype.
Well Storage 24 had none of those things, and no one went to see it. Well, maybe like ten people did but come on. Worst of all, this film isn’t some cult horror “hidden gem” waiting to be rediscovered. It’s not awful per se, but it is bland and easily forgotten afterwards so there was no word-of-mouth hype to go with it either. This film shows what happens when a bad movie has bad marketing and the answer is, “it blows up like the death star”.
3. Dog Eat Dog (2008) - $80
In a weird turn of events this film actually did well in some festival circuits and won a few awards, even though it still holds only a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes which would suggest that it’s probably still not very good. Either way, this 2008 Colombian crime thriller failed to make a splash at the box office and brought in only $80. Why? Well, it has no one famous in it, it only showed up in a handful of theatres, and it had no good word-of-mouth behind it.
There’s no real magic key to understanding why this film failed so badly. Like Storage 24 it wasn’t very good and it wasn’t marketed well. Oh well!
4. Misconduct - £97
So not all flops are little indie films like Storage 24 or Dog Eat Dog. Some films, like Misconduct, turn up to the box office with Hollywood legends in tow. In this case both Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino were somehow blackmailed into starring in this by-the-numbers boring thriller. Bearing in mind that between they have numerous Oscars, Baftas, and all other kinds of fancy awards, it still wasn’t enough to save this film from dying painfully during its theatrical release. The main problem was the film was just basic af. It had no real way to hook you, and was just about a lawyer who gets caught up in a conspiracy after he bends the rules to stick it to a corrupt company.
The plot is a confusing mess, and most of the time is spent with the not-too-great Josh Duhamel while Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino just kind of linger in the background. It’s utterly forgettable, the performances are weak, and the plot looks like it was copy and pasted from a thousand other movies. The end result was a film that made less money than the clothes the actors wore during rehearsals.
5. The Colony
Here’s another film with a huge star in tow. This time it’s the Harry Potter alum Emma Watson who…*sigh* is everyone sick of her yet? Can we say that openly? Did everyone else snap when they saw her warble her way through Beauty and the Beast like some kind of autotuned howler monkey? Or do we all have to pretend that we really like her, and that she’s really talented even though she was never the best performer in Harry Potter?
Well, whether she is or isn’t (she isn’t) that good an actress, she at least has name recognition. But that was not enough to save this film which made a sad £47 at the box office. Well, it may have an excuse because the film was also released online to stream so that probably had something to do with its poor performance at cinemas. Yeah, it’s probably just that…
6. Man Down - £7
Shia LeBeouf is a little less controversial to hate on than Emma Watson. He has, over time, acquired a reputation as a bit of a man-child. He’s prone to outbursts, has been known to unprofessionally bash the very films he’s starring in (to be fair it was Transformers 3 which did suck), and he does loads of weird art-house stunts. He’s also been caught up in his fair share of drunken shenanigans and has had to deal with substance abuse. Despite that, people do know who he is and he has turned out a couple of good performances during his time.
Man Down was not one of those performances. Man Down has the unique distinction of having the worst performance in the UK box office ever. £7 = just one lonesome ticket. Whoever that person was, sitting alone in an empty theatre as this melancholic self-serious film played up front, kudos to them because when we watched this film we had to work hard to not get up and walk away. So whoever endured this film deserves credit for their willpower.
7. The Benefactor - £25
This Richard Gere vehicle took a hefty punch at the UK box office when it failed to attract even a sliver of interest from audiences. The film focuses on a man who causes the death of a married couple and, feeling guilty, tries to help their daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her husband. Over time he becomes obsessed with them and the relationship turns sinister and threatening. While the movie has an interesting premise it too struggled to convince people that its main stars were worth a watch.
Perhaps it was because Dakota Fanning no longer had the same impact she had as a child, or maybe it’s because Richard Gere had been out of the public eye for too long, but the two of them combined didn’t work. Once again, this was also confounded by the film’s poor reviews and weak marketing which only communicated “stay away” to potential audiences instead of convincing them to show up in droves.