Box-office flops used to be not only more plentiful, but easier to calculate. Huge international grosses and risk-averse studios, however, have made straightforward box-office bombs a rarity. Remember Warcraft? The movie cost $160 million to produce and made only $47 million in America. Flop, right? Not when you account for worldwide grosses, where it added another $386 million. Now, a movie poorly received in the United States has an actual shot at a sequel because globally, Warcraft is the most successful video-game adaptation of all time. Likewise, Michael Fassbender’s poorly received Assassin’s Creed is laying eggs at the box office here in America, but it’s likely to make up the difference — and then some — internationally. Did anyone want anther sequel to The Da Vinci Code? The American box office ($39 million) suggested no, but with international box office factored in, Inferno made $220 million on a $75 million budget.
Determining exactly what flopped and did not in 2016, however, is not an exact science. We get the box-office figures and the production budget, but we don’t know exactly how much the studio gets of that money and how much goes to theaters, nor do we have access the marketing budgets. Those vary from movie to movie. In calculating the biggest bombs of the year, however, we used a simple formula: Production Budget + 30 – (Box Office Gross x .70) = X. In other words, we assumed the studios would receive around 70 percent of the box office take and spend around $30 million in marketing, which gives us a rough estimate of how much each film lost.
For instance, Ghostbusters made $229 million at the box office globally. It cost $144 million to make. Assuming the studio received 70 percent of the take and spent $30 million in marketing, the film ultimately lost around $15 million. That’s why a sequel is not being fast-tracked, although we can assume that the studio made up the difference in streaming, licensing, and toys, so even a misfire like Ghostbusters will likely break even in the long term.
The formula here is not an exact science, but an estimate. With that in mind, here were the biggest flops of the year (and their estimated box-office losses).
Honorable Mention: Zoolander 2 (-$20 million)
Paramount dragged its feet on a Zoolander sequel for years, and for good reason. The original wasn’t exactly a smash hit (it made $60 million globally on a $30 million budget). It did have something of a cult following, but a 15-year gap between installments is not sustainable for most sequels that are not Star Wars. Its stars Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller also lack the relevance they once did, and to be honest, it was a terrible movie, the murder of Justin Bieber notwithstanding. Paramount probably should have stuck with its original decision and declined to make the sequel.