Saturday, August 30, 2008


...movies. They happen. Not every good movie is a huge success. Not every huge success is a good movie.

I was surfing around the 'net this morning and saw an article discussing the 10 worst box offices of all time. I'm not sure this list is 100% accurate, and it obviously doesn't go into deep detail about the depth of the financial problems each movie caused (Like how Cleopatra actually forced 20th Century Fox to sell off a large portion of their lot. That's right. All of you residing in Century City, thank Elizabeth Taylor's first dollar gross deal for your domicile). Still, it was an interesting read.

Of all the movies on the list, my favorite has to be ZYZZYX Road. This is a movie that cost 2 million dollars to make, features one of today's hottest actresses, Katherine Heigl, and made a whooping $30 at the box office. Not $300,000, $30,000, $3,000, or even $300. No, it made a theatrical gross of $30. The movie DID only screen at one theater in Texas for ONLY a week, but that averages out to just over $4.25 A DAY!

Now, I should mention that the article does not discuss the success of the film in ancillary markets (DVDs, Internet, Pay TV, Cable, etc). However, usually the formula is roughly 3-5x theatrical is the expected profits on DVD. So, on the high end, their expected return should be no more than $150 (that was a joke). To be fair, right now there are films being screened in NY and LA to empty houses just to qualify for Academy Award consideration. In addition, movies do sometimes find their audience on DVD. Filmmakers like Kevin Smith depends on DVD sales. So, theatrical does not ALWAYS dictate home video sales.

The director, John Penney, claims that this was a deliberate move. He was forced to screen the film domestically to fulfill his obligation to SAG regarding theatrically released films. He did not want to domestically distribute the film until after a successful foreign release. So, he rented out a theater for one week and screened the film once a day, without publicity. How successful was his plan? From Wikipedia "The film was released in twenty-three countries and by the end of 2006, had earned about $368,000. As of today, the film has not yet received the legitimate domestic distribution that was supposed to follow its foreign release."

In the filmmaker's defense, losing $2 million dollars is FAR less than any of the other films on that list. And, you have to applaud the independent spirit. He did go on to direct another film, which is more than most people ever get. At least it wasn't THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH. Wow, I started out to bash the film, and ended up realizing a deep respect for the filmmaker's independent spirit. Weird how that works out, huh?

On a final note, Disaster movie has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes through it's first weekend. I've been reading rotten tomatoes for a long time and I've never seen a 0% for a major studio release. If you have, leave a comment so I can check it out.

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