With three key recent films under his belt, two of which were well-publicized big budget disasters, Taylor Kitsch has found himself in a precarious position: being the common denominator in financially sagging movies.
"Kitsch is about one more wannabe blockbuster away from straight-to-video," says Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock.
Disney's "John Carter," starring Kitsch, was a cataclysmic bomb, accounting for losses of more than $70 million. "It probably didn't help that he had to act in front of green screens for the majority of 'John Carter,'" Bock points out. "The physique, the look, and the potential is there for Kitsch, but he needs to prove he can really dive into a character that isn't one-dimensional; small but juicy roles would be a step in the right direction," he adds.
Kitsch's other expensive film "Battleship" may have just barely recouped its $209 million budget if you count worldwide ticket sales: To date, the film has grossed just more than $300 million. But that likely doesn't cover marketing costs, so it's hard to say whether the film made any money at all. To compare, that is nowhere near last year's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which brought in more than $352 million in U.S. ticket sales alone. "There is no doubt that a studio would think twice about casting him as a lead after the poor performances of both 'Battleship' and 'John Carter.' He might still be on the list, but pretty far down, and certainly not the A-list," says Bock.
The financial fate of Kitsch's latest project, Oliver Stone-directed "Savages," is yet to be sealed. Opening at No. 4 this past weekend, just behind Disney/Pixar's "Brave," "Savages" needs to make a significant amount more money than its $16 million opening weekend to exceed its $45 million budget.
"Savages" did well for an intense R rated movie, argues box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. And when it comes to pointing fingers at Kitsch for the failures of Universal's "Battleship" and Disney's "John Carter," he says, "I can understand why people are thinking this. It's becoming a running joke and it's really unfair... Kitsch is not well known enough to hurt a movie." Dergarabedian further argues that if Kitsch were a big name star, labeling him as box office poison might have more merit.
"There's going to be a breakout movie for this guy and everyone's going to forget about the 'John Carter'/'Battleship' situation," Dergarabedian predicts. "This guy has a huge career ahead of him."
Longtime industry analyst Len Klady agrees -- Kitsch can't be counted out: "I don't really consider the 'Savages' opening to be the last nail in the coffin. It was actually a better opening than was expected." Kitsch and his managers now need to be both strategic and relentless, he says, adding that "Taylor Kitsch" is a "terrible name." "Take the Channing Tatum route (another terrible name) and keep working. It's difficult to say at this point whether he has the goods. He has the looks but as we all know that will only carry you so far."
Bock is more pessimistic: "When you're the lead in two high-profile potential blockbusters and you strike out both times, your days in the big show are definitely numbered. An actor only gets so many chances to prove their viability with major studio projects, and right now Taylor Kitsch is on the fast track to becoming another Colin Farrell."
But Bock too says Kitsch can course-correct: "'Savages' certainly didn't blow the doors off the box office, but aligning himself with top-tier talent behind the camera like Oliver Stone is a step in the right direction. Moving forward, Kitsch should probably become more of an ensemble player in Oscar bait films until he finds a foothold in Hollywood, and can then handpick his own projects. That's the true definition of power in Hollywood, anyway."