Gal Gadot in "Keeping Up with the Joneses" (20th Century Fox)

These are the 25 worst opening weekend box-office totals in modern movie history

When blockbusters go bust


Gabriel Bell
November 4, 2017 7:00PM (UTC)

It's one thing for your small, limited-release film to score a paltry return on the two or three screens it debuts on. The Katherine Heigl indie "Zyzzyx Road" collected exactly $30 when it opened in one theater in 2006. Debuting on just 10 screens, "Amityville Horror: The Awakening" grabbed just about $742 its first (and probably only) weekend in late October of this year. These things happen, and more often than you may think.

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But what about when a film opens on not just a handful of screens, but on several thousand? Well, the stakes (and the returns) are almost infinitely higher, making the failures even more notable and, let's be honest, enjoyable. There's nothing that punctures Hollywood hubris as well as seeing a studio's undying faith in a bad project rewarded with hilariously bad box-office figures.

So, to get those kind of cheap thrills, we turned to Box Office Mojo, our go-to source for such things, and collected the 25 worst movie openings on 3,000 screens or more from the last 35 years and ranked them for you from simply bad to utterly atrocious. Enjoy the schadenfreude and remember that most in Hollywood are looking for such wide-release movies to at least earn most of their budgets in the first weekend of release — a tall order none of these films could fill.

 

loganlucky-gateway-compressor25. "Logan Lucky," 2017
Now, it is in a sense unfair that "Logan Lucky" is on this list. A decent film by Steven Soderbergh, this caper flick starring Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver wasn't designed to be a big hit. It was designed to make its money back, though. An experiment in funding, "Logan Lucky" was made without a studio attachment. Instead — and maybe this is a little too inside baseball — Soderbergh sold the distribution rights before filming and put himself on the hook for marketing costs. It was a neat little gamble that did, in time, mostly pay off. Still, one can't call it a successful test of what Soderbergh hopes is a new production format. Either way, it raked in a mere $7,600,036 against its $21 million budget. Figure in another, what, $10 million in marketing and it's just not a good look. That said, check it out via on-demand. It's got 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes for Pete's sake.

 

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24. "The Transporter Refueled," 2015
How did the sequel to the profitable, high-kicking B-movie franchise starring everyone's favorite bald action star, Jason Statham, take in just $7,355,622 its first weekend on a budget of $22 million? Should have been a quick smash-and-grab win like the others in the series right? Well, that would be a good bet, provided Statham actually showed up for it. With better things to do with his life — "The Fast and Furious" films among them — Statham bowed out of this addition, letting relative unknown Ed Skrein ("Deadpool") pick up the pieces. Audiences weren't having it. Add to that a poor overall reception (16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and it couldn't succeed even in a week with few competitors at the box office. Sure, it came in No. 1 and eventually banked over three times its budget, but it's still a poor return that marked the end of the franchise. Not all reboots are made equal.

 

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23. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," 2017
In what is perhaps another example of franchise fatigue, the fourth (yes, fourth) film in the "Wimpy Kid" series also suffered from the loss of its franchise star. In this case, Zachary Gordon was replaced as protagonist Greg Heffley by Jason Drucker. This came along with a complete revision of the series' core cast. The distributor also managed to drop it into the middle of a completely glutted weekend at the multiplex for both adults and "Wimpy Kid"'s underage audience. That same week saw the release of "Alien: Covenant" while "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Wonder Woman," "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" and "Cars 3" still held sway. Finally, as with "The Transporter Refueled," "The Long Haul" suffered from poor advance notice. Even the most generous adults are rarely willing to sit with their kids through a movie with a 20 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, factoring into its fairly wimpy $7,126,084 opening.

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22. "Detroit," 2017
Yes, another poor showing for another 2017 film. Are you starting to get the picture here? Many are already predicting 2017 will go down as one of the least profitable years in modern box-office history, even if it's seen some historically good advances in the format. Kathryn Bigelow's "Detriot" may very well have been the victim of the growing audience tendency to stay home and wait until features pop up on Netflix or Amazon. Challenging, inciting, but perhaps not quite good enough to compel people to the cinema, "Detroit" offered a look at the 1967 race riots in that city that would seem essential given our daily headlines. But perhaps that, and a somewhat flubbed marketing campaign was part of why it only earned $7,125,601 its opening weekend and a total of $21.1 million off a $34 million budget. Why go to the movies to see a Black Lives Matter narrative when you can turn on CNN? More than that, why watch a Black Lives Matter narrative written and directed by white people?

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21. "Collateral Beauty," 2016
This was bound to happen. Despite boasting an incredible cast of Will Smith supported by Kate Winslet, Keira Knightly, Helen Mirren and many, many others, "Collateral Beauty" simply had one of the worst premises in modern film history. Rolled out in the buildup to the Christmas vacation, this sad sack of a sentimental Oscar grab featured a mourning Smith interacting with characters who may or may not be the embodiments of Love, Death and Time. For real. That narrative, its 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and the fact that it arrived the same week as "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" landed it a light $7,102,085 its first weekend out. While it doubled its budget eventually, it never surpassed its marketing costs and represents a blight on Smith's legendary, but long-in-the-tooth, box-office career.

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2o. "Walking With Dinosaurs," 2013
It's hard to sell a movie when people aren't really sure it's a movie in the first place. "Walking With Dinosaurs" followed hot on the heels of TV series and stage shows of the same name, creating just a bit of confusion. While its animated sequences featuring prehistoric flora and lots of big, big fauna were impressive, its bid to wrap all that around a narrative that kids and adults would lap up was not. Overall, it was a museum or classroom short with Justin Long and John Leguizamo thrown it to pad out the minutes (and there were only 87 of those.) Neither here nor there, "Walking With Dinosaurs" started slow on its way to $126.5 million with a $7,091,938 first-weekend haul off an $80 million budget.

 

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19. "Mars Needs Moms," 2011
How big was the box-office failure of "Mars Need Moms"? It was so big that, reportedly, Disney changed the title of its forthcoming "John Carter: Man of Mars" to just "John Carter" to avoid any confusion (of course, "John Carter" became one of the biggest flops in history, but that's another story). With eerie computer animation stuck in the uncanny valley and a poor script, it landed with a poor $6,914,488 opener, a $39 million gross of a $150 million budget and a place in history as the biggest financial failure of a Disney-branded film.

 

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18. "Going the Distance," 2010
Remember when Justin Long and Drew Barrymore were an item? No? Remember when they made a movie together? No? Remember Justin Long at all? No? Welp, "Going the Distance," a romcom starring them both, had exactly that kind of impact on the box office. Despite a huge amount of supporting, largely then-unknown talent including Charlie Day, Natalie Morales, Jason Sudeikis, June Diane Raphael, Rob Riggle, Kristen Schaal and many others, this well directed but underwritten trifle never quite caught on, earning only $6,884,964 its first weekend and becoming one of the worst debuts for a wide-release film in the romcom genre.

 

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17. "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," 2003
Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes — with a cast like that it's a shame "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" was animated. It's also a shame it opened when "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," "Hulk" and, sigh, "Finding Nemo" were all in release. An early failure for Dreamworks, which often had trouble launching an animated film that didn't star Shrek, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" just didn't have the charm or bite of a Disney or Pixar film and, sadly, turned the Arab sailor into a Greek for some reason. It all added up to a $6,874,477 opening and an $80.7 million gross off a $60 million budget — a dud by any measure.

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16. "Astro Boy," 2009
"Astro Boy" is not a terrible film, just an unwanted one. An Americanized take on a beloved Japanese anime property, "Astro Boy" featured — yes — quality computer animation and — yes — vocal talent from Freddie Highmore, Nicholas Cage, Charlize Theron, Kristen Bell and others, but it soon found that the adults who would theoretically like it out of nostalgia and the kids who would like it for its whiz-bang concept were few and far between. Worst of all, it was a full-on bomb in Astro Boy's native land of Japan, perhaps because the plot and characters had been run through a U.S. filter. Its opening weekend gross of $6,702,923 was a low fraction of its $65 million cost, never a good thing.

 

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15. "Masterminds," 2016
Oh, poor "Masterminds." The humble, zany and perhaps too-weird-for-its-own-good comedy starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson from "Napoleon Dynamite" director Jared Hess should have been a cheap, in-and-out offering — the sort of thing Hollywood throws against the wall to see if it sticks. Instead, hyped up in the wake of Galifianakis' successes in the "Hangover" films, the expectations (and the budget) were inflated and a sticky contract situation created a minor war between Netflix and Relativity Films, the failing studio that had delayed the undercooked movie's release several times. No wonder it pulled in only $6,541,205 when it first hit theaters.

 

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14. "Shorts," 2009
Another of director Robert Rodriguez' hit-or-miss children's films, "Shorts" landed in theaters at the same time as "Inglourious Basterds," G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," "Julie & Julia" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." The reviews weren't bad per se (45 percent on Rotten Tomatoes isn't actually horrible for a kids' film) and the cast featured some standouts including Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, Leslie Mann and Kat Dennings. However, with no previous movie, book or TV show to seed its way, the film, also known as "Shorts: The Adventures of the Wishing Rock," offered little appeal to the market and only took in $6,410,339 its first weekend out.

 

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13. "Quest for Camelot," 1998
If there's anything this list should teach you, it's that animated films are a rough investment, seeing as they cost so much to produce and require the right balance of property, script, visual quality and tone to make their money back. "Quest for Camelot" didn't really have any of those things going for it. Everything in this first offering from Warner Bros.' new feature animation studio seemed formulaic and standard issue, leading it to limp out of its opening weekend with only $6,041,602 in pocket against a $40 million budget.

 

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12. "The Wild Thornberrys," 2002
As an odd, idiosyncratic TV cartoon on Nickelodeon, "The Wild Thornberrys" worked. Put out into nature against competitors such as "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and other big-ticket holiday offerings, it was eaten alive . . . at least at first. Thanks to good reviews it was actually able to surpass its opening gross of $6,013,847 with $7.4 million in its second weekend, a rarity for any film in wide, wide release and proof that quality eventually will out. Against a slim animated budget of $25 million, it eventually hung in for a respectable $60.7 million at the box office — a victory pulled from the jaws of defeat.

 

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11. "New York Minute," 2004
Coming near the hight of the Olsen Twins' popularity as headline-grabbing celebrities but also at just about the very moment they ceased to be draws for their own film projects, "New York Minute" was released nine years after their last big-screen outing and never took off. Perhaps their final film was just that bad (it got 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, after all). Perhaps the girlish appeal of these young adults had worn off or their core audience had outgrown them. Whatever the case, $5,962,106 on the first weekend of a $30 million film is a poor, poor showing. Regardless, between their fashion empire, their entertainment holdings and other investments, Ashley and Mary-Kate are billionaires by now. They surely don't sweat this failure.

 

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10. "Strange Magic," 2015
Writer George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas) said of his poorly received computer-animated musical romance comedy, "'Star Wars' was for 12-year-old boys; I figured I'd make one for 12-year-old girls." Obviously, he doesn't know girls as well as he thought he did. With lousy songs, a script many criticized as hackneyed and flat, frankly disturbing character design and a barely-there marketing campaign, "Strange Magic" opened to a mere $5,504,441 and only grossed a total of $13.6 million overall. Rumors have its budget anywhere between $70 and $100 million, making it not only one of the biggest animated bombs of all time, but the largest turkey with Lucas' name attached to it.

 

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9. "Imagine That," 2009
Eddie Murphy, once a fantastically funny moneymaker, has gained himself a bit of a reputation for coughing up family-friendly turds. In this case, it was a story of a workaholic Murphy whose daughter is somehow magically able to read the stock market using her childhood blanket. Yeah. Oh, and there were a lot of jokes made at the expense of Native Americans too. Somehow it survived complete critical drubbing (it has 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences perhaps gun-shy thanks to past Murphy efforts and confused by the premise stayed away in droves, giving it a measly $5,503,519 first-weekend haul off of an inflated $55 million budget.

 

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8. "Keeping Up with the Joneses," 2016
Whiffing in and out of theaters before audiences could even notice that Jon Hamm and Gal "Wonder Woman" Gadot were in it, this Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher two-hander was met with scorchingly bad reviews. Again, Galifianakis' successes in the "Hangover" films did not translate into gold here, nor did its comedy espionage premise. This, despite the fact that Greg Mottola, the director of "Superbad" and "Adventureland," was at the helm. The studio seemed to know what they had on their hands, punting the release of "Keeping Up with the Joneses" out of spring and into fall where it netted $5,461,475 at opening off of its basically reasonable $40 million budget.

 

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7. "What's Your Number?," 2011
In this case, the number was $5,421,669 for an opening weekend against an initial budget of $20 million. Sorry, we couldn't resist that. Squandering the talents of Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and many, many others, this gross-out romcom leveraged a somewhat mean vision of a woman contacting all her past lovers into a fully stale production. Even with few hits to compete with in a late-September market past "Paranormal Activity 3," "What's Your Number?" never found found an audience, which is too bad given that its script and the book it was based on were all written by otherwise talented, successful women.

 

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6. "Meet Dave," 2008
Of all of Eddie Murphy's many failures — "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," "Imagine That," etc. — this is one of the more remarkable. Playing both an alien ship that looked like Eddie Murphy and the pilot of that ship, the comedian steered through a bizarre and bizarrely unfunny script that had perhaps passed through too many writers before making it to the screen. After a dreadful first weekend pull of $5,251,918, it set the all-time record for theater drops after distributors pulled it from 2,523 of the 3,011 screens it debuted on. In all, it somehow managed to gross $50.7 million of its $60 million budget. Not the biggest Murphy bomb, but one of the fastest to explode.

 

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5. "Hardcore Henry," 2016
The brutally hard action film "Hardcore Henry" could have benefitted from its remarkably rare conceit. It was the first, and still only, major theatrical release filmed entirely from a first-person perspective. The handheld, hi-def camerawork and sharp, jarring stunts were interesting as well. Yet, this offered only a niche appeal to a certain set of young men, and the plot and performances wrapped around the novel concept were noted as weak. All this adding up to a $5,107,604 sounds like bad news, until you realize the entire film cost $2 million to make and not much more to market. With $16.8 million in total grosses, it's the only bona fide hit on this list (even if it was a loss for the theaters that stocked it.)

 

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4. "Burnt," 2015
It was marketed — incorrectly — as an Oscar bid for star Bradley Cooper. Yet this tale of a high-flying, troubled, drug-addicted, top-tier chef was simply not a draw anywhere, perhaps due to the rich-people-problems narrative, perhaps due to poor advance notice. The Weinstein company juggled its release dates, its hard marketing push seemed a little off and nothing about this John Wells film stuck. With "Creed," "Spectre" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" still offering competition for viewers, "Burnt" flamed out with a $5,002,521 opening, though it would eventually earn more than its $20 million cost.

 

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3. "Fun Size," 2012
While this teen-market entry from "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz had the benefits of star Victoria Justice at the height of her popularity and the Nickelodeon brand imprint, it was an odd fit for both. Forwarded as something as light and child-proof as, say, "Snow Day," "Fun Size" was actually far more adult in the way it depicted sex and general partying. It might have made for a good John Hughes-style romp if the studio had steered it toward a more mature audience. It might have succeeded as a kids' offering if it were even more toned down. But "Fun Size" was neither, and with poor reviews and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2," "Skyfall" and more glutting the theaters, it only pulled $4,101,017 its opening weekend.

 

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2. "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising," 2007
Based on the second book of a fantasy YA series, "The Seeker" seemed an effort to take the general demand for teen wizarding in a new, darker direction, but wound up lacking spark and charisma. Changes to the original narrative of the books also seemed to bring the film into generic territory, something that may have been obvious to viewers. With $45 million sunk into production, this creaky approach to magic and adolescence gathered just $3,745,315 when it bowed in theaters.

 

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1. "Hoot," 2006
And here we go, the worst of the worst. It's hard to clock exactly what went wrong with "Hoot." Sure, this undercooked, kid-targeted story based on a Carl Hiaasen novel about children protecting an owl habitat from construction developers got bad reviews. But, as Rotten Tomatoes was not quite yet a factor in viewers' decisions at the time and many successful youth-directed films get even worse notices, it's unclear why it only pulled in $3,368,197 in a market with few genuine competitors. What's even harder to figure out is why this Luke Wilson stinker, which only grossed a little over half of its modest $15 budget, was added to the Museum of Modern Art's film collection three years later. Some things are beyond knowing.


Gabriel Bell

Gabriel Bell is Salon's Deputy Culture Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @GabrielJBell

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