15 Summer Box Office Disasters From The Last 20 Years – Rolling Stone
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15 Summer Box Office Disasters From The Last 20 Years

The inside story of the summer movies that lost a fortune, from ‘Catwoman’ to ‘The Lone Ranger’

Peter Mountain/Disney; The Kobal Collection; Warner Bros. Pictures

We are near the height of the summer movie season right now, and overall it's been a pretty good year for Hollywood. Transformers: Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past have made an absolute fortune, but it's always more fun to talk about the bombs. Studios are quite willing to spend upwards of $300 million on a movie if it means they might make $1 billion — so when something bellyflops it can hit the ground especially hard. Many of the biggest summer box office disasters have hit during the past two decades. Here's a look at 15 of them, complete with budget and worldwide box office grosses (per BoxOfficeMojo.com). By Andy Greene

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7. ‘The 13th Warrior’ (1999)

Budget: $160 million. Box Office: $61 million.

John McTiernan knows how to direct a great movie; he's the man that gave us Die Hard and the vastly under-appreciated Die Hard With A Vengeance. Sadly, he's had a rough run since then, directing flops like Rollerball and going to prison as part of the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal. Back in 1999, he directed the Antonio Banderas historical epic The 13th Warrior, which was based off Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead. It cost $160 million and only grossed back $61 million, leaving the studio nearly $100 million in the hole. We still hope that McTiernan comes back for the next Die Hard movie, though. He may be the only person that can save that dying franchise. 

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8. ‘Around The World In 80 Days’ (2004)

Budget: $110 million. Box Office: $72 million.

Jackie Chan and Jules Verne may not be two people you'd ever place together, but 10 years ago Disney felt Chan would be the ideal leading man for a big screen adaptation of the author's classic novel Around the World in 80 Days. It's an oddly goofy movie that often bears little resemblance to the beloved book, and audiences had little interest; it had a worldwide gross of $72 million with a budget of $110 million. 

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9. ‘Gigli’ (2003)

Budget: $54 million. Box Office: $7 million.

Over the past decade, the word Gigli has become synonymous with hubris, failure and the short-lived cultural phenomenon known as "Bennifer." The film was supposed to bring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's offscreen chemistry onto the big screen, but it wound up sickening everyone, making $7 million off a $54 million budget. Much of that money was spent on their salaries, which managed to be three times more than the movie's total take. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken both had small roles, but they escaped unscathed. Bennifer wasn't so lucky — it split once more into two separate beings not long afterwards. 

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10. ‘K-19: The Widowmaker’ (2002)

Budget: $100 million. Box Office: $65 million.

Harrison Ford had an amazing run between 1977 and 2000, but right around the turn of the millennium something happened that turned him into box office poison. Exhibit A: This Cold War-era submarine movie of questionable historical accuracy, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and burdened with a $100 million price tag. It earned back just $65 million worldwide; that fact that this epic disaster was financed by National Geographic rather than a major studio only made the loss hurt that much worse. Thankfully, Bigelow got much, much better at creating war movies (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) in recent years.

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11. ‘North’ (1994)

Budget: $40 million. Box Office: $7 million.

Roger Ebert wrote over 6,000 movie reviews during his four decade career, yet one of the most memorable passages comes from the widely-forgotten 1994 Elijah Wood movie North. "I hated this movie," he wrote. "Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Ebert's review has become so infamous that Rob Reiner was even goaded into reading a bit of it during his Friars Club Roast. The plot involves a boy traveling around the world seeking out new parents. He comes across half of Hollywood (Kathy Bates, Alan Arkin, Jason Alexander, Jon Lovitz, Bruce Willis and even a young Scarlett Johansson), but winds up making one of the worst road movies ever. Few films have ever inspired that much hate — so at least they accomplished something.

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12. ‘Catwoman’ (2004)

Budget: $100 million. Box Office: $82 million.

On paper, the idea of a Catwoman movie made a lot of sense. She's one of the most iconic villains in any comic book, and Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal of the character in Batman Returns (1992) was absolutely amazing. She was even alive at the very end of the film, but wisely, Pfeiffer didn't sign on for this feline-centric follow-up, directed by mono-monikered French filmmaker Pitof. That honor went to Halle Berry, fresh off her Best Actress award for Monster's Ball. Proving that the Oscar curse is no myth, Catwoman earned a worldwide gross of $82 million on a $100 budget, which was no doubt swelled by huge marketing costs. Berry herself showed up to accept her Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress, holding her Oscar in one hand and the Golden Razzie in the other. "I want to thank Warner Brothers," she said. "Thank you for putting me in a piece of shit, god awful movie. It was just what my career needed. I was at the top, and then Catwoman plummeted me to the bottom."

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13. ‘Battlefield Earth’ (2000)

Budget: $73 million. Box Office: $30 million.

Whatever you do, don't you dare think that John Travolta willed this insane, unwatchable, ludicrously overblown movie into existence because it happened to be based off a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. That's a mere coincidence; why, Travolta probably wasn't even aware that Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth. He just wanted to make a little movie about humanity's war with aliens in the year 3000 and then everyone just had to get so critical. The studio spent $73 million on Battlefield Earth and it made back just $30 million. Travola was near the height of his comeback around this time, but this disaster set him back quite a ways. 

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14. ‘Evan Almighty’ (2007)

Budget: $175 million. Box Office: $173 million

The 2003 Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty grossed nearly $500 million, making a sequel pretty much inevitable — even though Carrey and his co-star Jennifer Aniston refused to sign on. The studio soldiered on instead with Steve Carrell, Morgan Freeman and Lauren Graham, riffing on a modern-day Noah's Ark story. The budget swelled to insane proportions to pull off all the necessary special effects, at the time, it was the most expensive comedy ever produced.  The critics were brutal, and the studio even had to deal with allegations that chimpanzees were abused during production. Don't expect a third Almighty movie to come anytime soon. 

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15. ‘The Avengers’ (1998)

Budget: $60 million. Box Office: $48 million.

Fourteen years before the all-star Marvel superhero extravaganza became one of the biggest hits in the history of Hollywood, a far, far worse movie also called The Avengers landed with a thud in theaters. This was an adaptation of the 1960s British TV series starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. (This came right after Batman and Robin…poor Uma.) Though the show was a cult favorite back in the day, few people outside of England remembered these characters in 1998, and the film earned itself a Razzie for Worst Remake or Sequel. 

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