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Box-Office Bombs!
by Christopher Stone

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ISHTAR nuked the Box-Office Big Time.

ISHTAR nuked the Box-Office Big Time.
You may feel complimented, flattered, if someone calls you Da Bomb. Beyond that context, being a bomb is something to which few people, or things, aspire.

That most certainly applies to the Box-Office.

What is a Box-Office Bomb? It's not necessarily a flick of low quality and bargain basement production values. Nor is it always marked by bad performances and ship shod scripting. Quite simply, a flick is labeled Bomb if its production and marketing costs greatly exceed the money it amasses at the box-office. The Box-Office Bomb may be a costly major studio release, or it can be a made-on-a-shoestring independent feature. It can feature an Oscar-winning cast or it can star unknown players. The sole common denominator for the bomb moniker is that said feature must cost more money to produce and promote than it grosses.

This pillar regularly reports the flicks that have us scurrying to that iconic box-office near you as quickly as our clunkers can get us there. Not so frequently, we shift our focus to the flops: the bombs, turkeys and losers that swim in
Match-Flickers just said No way! to BATTLEFIELD EARTH.

Match-Flickers just said "No way!" to BATTLEFIELD EARTH.
red, not black, ink.

As summer begins its slow fade to fall, we're remembering a handful of the cinematic clunkers that nuked the box-office.

No list of Box-office Bombs should exclude the year 2000's worst-reviewed major motion picture: the Scientology, sci-fi fiasco, BATTLEFIELD EARTH, starring John Travolta and Kelly Preston. Budgeted at a whopping $73 million, this flop-ola flick ended up in $52 million of red ink.

We're going back, way back to 1987, for our next nuclear box-office blast. Back then, Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty were box-office royalty. Not even this super-testosterone team could salvage ISHTAR, an over-long, convoluted tale of two lousy lounge singers who inadvertently become pawns of the CIA and the Emir of Ishtar. On an investment of $55 million, ISHTAR lost $41 million, and dimmed the wattage of its male stars.

Search the subject area of Box-Office Bombs in an almanac or encyclopedia, and you'll invariably find a production photo from HEAVEN'S GATE (1980). Perhaps Hollywood's most-chronicled debacle of all time, this
HEAVEN'S GATE is the poster child for Box-Office Bombs!

HEAVEN'S GATE is the poster child for Box-Office Bombs!
big-budget bomb effectively ended the career of Oscar-winning director Michael Cimino (THE DEER HUNTER, 1978) and brought about the end of United Artists studio. In 1985, Steven Bach, President of United Artists while HEAVEN'S GATE was in production, wrote a tell-all best-seller about the experience, FINAL CUT DREAMS AND DISASTER IN THE MAKING OF HEAVEN'S GATE. Box-office Bombs don't come any more conspicuous than HEAVEN'S GATE, but the late Bach had the last laugh. Not only was his book a runaway hit, but it launched him in a successful career as an author-biographer that lasted until his death earlier this year.

Match-Flickers need look no further back than last summer for one of the box-office's all-time bombs: SPEED RACER. Released on May 9, 2008, to some of the worst reviews of our young century, this special effects-driven flick, based on an animated television series, left Match-Flickers cold. Budgeted at a whopping $120 million, this thermonuclear Box-Office Bomb grossed a pitiful $44 million. When all was seen and done, SPEED RACER was awash in
Match-Flickers gave SPEED RACER The Big Chill.

Match-Flickers gave SPEED RACER The Big Chill.
$76 million of red ink.

SUMMER BOX-OFFICE WATCH: If the July 31-August 2 Weekend were a comedian, it would be Andy Dick, not Jason Segel: In other words, still good for a few laughs, but not at the top of its game. FUNNY PEOPLE was a stand-up Number One with $23.4 million. HARRY POTTER had a tenuous hold on the Number Two spot with $17.7 million and G-FORCE was a nipping at HARRY's heels third with $17.1 million. Sadly, overall the box-office was down a whopping 18 percent from the same frame last year. Was America at the autoplex trading Clunkers for Cash, or did Match-Flickers think that the real Clunkers were all at the multiplex?

Match-Flickers, Uncle Sam Wants You! G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA stormed the August 7-9 box-office, commanding $56.2 million, to become the box-office's Number 1 attraction. It also helped the weekend climb 22 percent over the same frame last year. JULIE & JULIA, perhaps the best reviewed motion picture of the year, cooked up a delicious $20.1 million to snag the Number 2 spot. With a not-so-forceful $9.8 million, G-FORCE was third.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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