Movies have been big-business for some time now, but with the advent of CGI technology, the costs and revenues of films have ballooned considerably. One may think that a high production budget should correlate directly to box-office gold, or even a guarantee of good quality – but as this list will show that’s not always the case. We’re going to take a look at some of film’s most expensive productions, and flops!
John Carter (2012) – $264m
Based on the Princess of Mars novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter’s box-office success (or lack thereof) compared to its huge $250 million budget serves as a warning to any studio that thinks throwing money at a project will guarantee a successful outcome. The film had a difficult production process, originally being slated for release in 2006, but due to many delays and reshoots, the budget ended up spiralling out of control before it was eventually released in 2012. Despite the epic visuals and sci-fi setting, the plot and characters dragged the film down and it tanked with audiences, generating only $200m in returns against an overall budget of $350m ($250m production plus additional expense for marketing and promotion). What was supposed to be a popular trilogy got axed after John Carter’s first on-screen effort, and its failure means the property probably won’t see the silver-screen again for some time.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – $280m
Marvel’s cinematic universe was in full swing by the time that Age of Ultron rolled through, being the second outing for the heroic ensemble and the eleventh movie in the MCU. Completely contrary to the debacle John Carter suffered, the $280m production budget for Age of Ultron, and the exceptional popularity of the MCU as a whole, earned the movie a $1.4 billion box-office return. While the first Avengers movie may enjoy a better reputation, Age of Ultron still got a lot of love from audiences and is likely to be followed up by another budget and box office juggernaut in April: Avengers: Infinity War.
Justice League (2017) – $300m
Unfortunately, not all comic book movies are created equal – and although Justice League didn’t quite bomb as hard as John Carter did, it didn’t hit the heights that the studio expected for the first on-screen team up of DC’s greatest heroes. Beginning with Man of Steel in 2013, the DC movie universe experienced a bit of a mediocre start, which came to a head with the highly-divisive Batman v Superman, which put a lot of pressure on Justice League to perform well. Unfortunately because of production issues regarding a late and unpreventable change in director, Justice League ended up not resonating well with audiences and also having less excitement around it due to Batman v Superman’s disappointing box office performance. The lack of positivity for Justice League has forced Warner Bros to reconsider their DC projects going forward, with a Justice League sequel now in serious doubt.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides (2011) – $380m
The Pirates franchise started all the way back in 2003, and pretty much single-handedly returned Johnny Depp to the blockbuster stage. His iconic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow garnered such a huge amount of success that the franchise totalled five movies between 2003 and 2017, with each entry earning at least $650m with Dead Man’s Chest earning over $1 billion back in 2006. The franchise has tapered off a little bit lately, as 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales grossed the second lowest of all the movies, and Johnny Depp’s reduced star-power means these big budget rollercoasters aren’t guaranteed to have a sixth instalment.
The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014) – $623m
While the Hobbit trilogy is obviously three separately-released movies – they were produced and shot back-to-back so that the studio could guarantee annual releases between 2012 and 2014 until the trilogy was concluded, so technically, it was one production. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy followed a similar formula and release schedule between 2001 and 2003, and was also helmed by Peter Jackson. Many fans don’t necessarily like that a single book was dragged out over the course of three movies, and the Hobbit trilogy didn’t receive the massive praise that the Lord of the Rings trilogy did, but in total it grossed close to $3 billion and showcased some spectacular visuals and continued the cult popularity of Tolkien’s works.