8 Huge Box Office Disappointments in Hollywood History

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While some films like James Cameron’s Avatar and the MCU smash hit The Avengers spawn gargantuan franchises and generate studios trillions of dollars in revenue through ticket sales, merchandising, and licensing—behind each studio’s soaring success can be found an ancillary litany of disastrous productions that cleared the way.

Though some films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity have unexpectedly dominated the box office with shoestring budgets, other big-budget projects designed to be studio cash cows fall completely flat when they reach audiences. Despite their lofty budgets and millions spent on marketing, these films on our list didn't live up to the sum of their exorbitantly expensive parts.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Directed by Guy Richtie and starring Charlie Hunnam, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a 2017 fantasy epic adventure film inspired by medieval Britain’s Arthurian legends. Featuring a powerhouse cast with actors like Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Aiden Gillen, and Eric Bana—Legend of the Sword was originally intended to serve as the first of six installments in a new Arthurian cinematic universe from Warner Bros. Pictures. Touting a behemoth budget of $175 million, Richtie’s King Arthur grossly underperformed at the box office, pulling in just over $146 million at the worldwide box office, resulting in a total loss of about $150 million for Warner Bros. according to Deadline. The film’s horrid performance inevitably resulted in the would-be franchise being canned entirely.

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Catwoman (2004)

Loosely based on the beloved titular DC Comics antihero, Catwoman is a 2004 superhero flick starring Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Frances Conroy, and Sharon Stone. Frequently cited as one of the worst films of all time (an admittedly harsh distinction given the myriad of duller superhero movies out now), Catwoman received a whopping seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations including Worst Actress, Worst Picture, and Worst Director. Berry maintained a good sense of humor surrounding the project’s failure, later accepting her Razzie for Worst Actress in person with her Academy Award for her role in Monster’s Ball in tow. Originally envisioned as a spin-off with Michelle Pfeiffer reprising her role as Catwoman from Batman Returns, the film pulled in just over $82 million at the box office against a $100 million budget.

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Tomorrowland (2015)

Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, and country musician Tim McGraw, Tomorrowland is a 2015 sci-fi flick from Walt Disney Studios named after the Disney theme park area. Visually captivating and conceptually ambitious—Tomorrowland seemingly had all the pieces to make for a beautiful sci-fi epic but was inevitably bogged down by ham-fisted storytelling and uneven, stilted pacing. Alongside a lukewarm critical reception, Tomorrowland pulled in $209 million at the worldwide box office, a massive underperformance that lost Disney anywhere between $120 to $140 million according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 young adult fantasy novel of the same name, A Wrinkle in Time (2018) is Disney’s second adaptation of L’Engle’s seminal work after a lackluster television movie was released by the studio in 2003. Helmed by Emmy Award-winning director Ava DuVernay, A Wrinkle in Time boasted an all-star cast featuring actors like Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Storm Reid. Despite the film seemingly consisting of all the components of a modern classic, A Wrinkle in Time tanked at the box office, bringing in just over $133 million - reportedly resulting in Disney losing about $130 million on the project. Regardless of the ambitious project’s poor box office performance, it made history as the first live-action film with a budget exceeding $100 million to be helmed by an African American woman under DuVernay’s direction.

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The Lone Ranger (2013)

Starring Armie Hammer as the titular Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as his Native American sidekick Tonto, The Lone Ranger was a film seemingly doomed from the start. The film languished in development hell for more than a decade following numerous rewrites, budgetary conflicts, and creative differences. Production finally began in early 2012 but was almost immediately hit with another wave of setbacks including wildfires, inclement weather, an outbreak of chickenpox, and the death of crew member Michael Andrew Bridger who drowned while cleaning a water tank on set. Following innumerable release date changes, The Lone Ranger finally hit theaters nationwide on July 3, 2013, pulling in just shy of $30 million on its opening weekend. With budget estimates for the film sitting at around $375 million, The Lone Ranger would need to rake in around double that at the box office just in to break even. After earning just $260.5 million at the worldwide box office, the film was officially declared a bomb costing Disney an estimated $190 million.

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Bros (2022)

Co-written by star Bill Eichner and director Nicholas Stoller, Bros is a 2022 romcom following two New York City gay men who find themselves romantically drawn to one another despite their respective fears of commitment and emotional intimacy. One of the first gay romantic comedies to receive backing from a major studio, Bros was largely a critical success despite underperforming at the box office. With a production budget of $22 million and an estimated $30 million spent on marketing the film, Bros pulled in just $14.8 million in ticket sales, leading actor Bill Eichner to scold heterosexual moviegoers and blame them for the film’s commercial failure. Other critics asserted the film’s commercial flop could be attributed to the film’s overtly self-congratulatory marketing campaign, its relative lack of famous cast members, and the general waning interest in seeing comedies in theaters.

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Cats (2019)

The disastrous 2019 adaptation of composer Andrew Lloyd Weber’s polarizing musical, Cats, was lambasted by film critics from its release and quickly labeled one of the worst films ever produced. Despite its star-studded cast featuring artists like Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, and James Corden, the musical fantasy’s uncanny valley-looking CGI, and tawdry production design proved too much for audiences, leading to the film becoming one of the most notorious box office bombs in recent years. Despite carrying a budget between $80 - 100 million, Cats made just $75.5 million at the worldwide box office leading to Universal Pictures losing an estimated $70 million once costs for marketing and promotion were factored in. Even the musical’s creator, Andrew Lloyd Weber, expressed his disdain for the film, telling Variety that the adaptation had been so poorly executed it pushed him to adopt a dog for the first time in his life.

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Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Based on the infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill, the 2016 film starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, and John Malkovich follows the offshore drilling rig and its personnel in the hours leading up to and following the April 20, 2010 explosion that killed 11 workers and catalyzed the largest environmental disaster in United States history. Despite its warm critical reception, Deepwater Horizon failed to make a splash financially, pulling in just $121.8 million resulting in the Lionsgate production losing a reported $60 million overall.

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