The phrase "It totally BOMBED!" is used all the time these days. According to headlines, every other movie is a "box office bomb" unless it makes a billion dollars. I believe this happens because people love to see failure in action, and audiences are always eager to laugh at the next big flop.
However, a lot of the movies being heralded as financial failures are actually very successful, and financial failures are sometimes highlighted as wins. We just happen to get negative or positive spins on select data depending on the blogger, critic, and news station. Whomever effectively owns those said outlets is also a major factor when a movie is released as well, factually speaking. Just look at the Forbes headline for 'Warcraft', a movie that didn't do well domestically but made hundreds of millions over its budget internationally: "Box Office: 'Warcraft' Is A $430 Million Dollar Flop". The title is very misleading, and misrepresents what's actually going on. Here's a few examples of box office successes and failures that have been passed off as something else, along with a few examples that were spun correctly across the board:
'Terminator Genisys' is a classic example of false reporting. Every article read something like this: "Terminator terminated at box office and will end up making a horrific $90m on a $155m budget!" This is totally off. While it's true that the film made $90m in the states, it made over $350m in the international markets. Even if the film had $100m marketing budget, which it didn't, that means Genisys made almost 95m over its budget. That means that after everyone had been paid to make the film, the studio put 95m in its bank account. DVD sales for the movie then brought in an additional $25m.
That's right, we live in a time where a movie that generates over 120 million dollars in pure profit is sold to the public as a box office bomb, and this happens because the forces that be are only giving you the numbers from domestic sales. This movie wasn't a big enough hit to fuel future sequels and add a new tentpole to the producing studio, but that makes it a disappointment, not a flop.
Spin: Box Office Bomb
Verdict: Financial Success/Big Dissapointment
P.S. 'Terminator Genisys' was a terrible movie. Don't even bother watching it.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice(2016)
This movie made $872m dollars on a $250m dollar budget. Even after marketing it made hundreds of millions in profit. This movie was not a box office bomb, but the majority of news sources called it one because it was universally hated. Critics tore it up and audiences were underwhelmed. This movie led to its director, Zack Snyder, being replaced as the head of the DC movie universe, and has made the execs over at DC take a real hard look at their upcoming movie lineup. But it still made a ton of money; there's no denying that. It's one of the most financially successful movies of all time. All of this makes BvS a big disappointment, not a flop.
Spin: Box Office Bomb
Verdict: Financial Success/Massive Disappointment
The jury is still out on this one, but lets look at the data. This movie was made for $144m after rebates and tax incentives, and the studio spent at least $100m on marketing. Just to break even this movie needs to generate a minimum of $244m. Opening weekend it made $46m domestically and $18m overseas. To date the film has made $64m, and its been out for a week. This is not good. For a film with a budget that size that was created to be a studio tentpole, and since it was released right in the middle of summer, it should have made at LEAST $65m to be on the road to success. Also, next week sees the opening of Jason Bourne, and Suicide Squad opens the week after that. It'll be lucky to make another $100m, everything points to the movie being steamrolled into oblivion over the next couple of weeks.
What are the headlines saying? Things like "Huge Win!" and "Ghostbusters is the highest grossing comedy since Pitch Perfect 2!" This is happening because this movie has a lot of controversy swirling around it, and the media is trying to put a positive spin on it. Mainstream media also isn't bringing up that Ghostbusters has been denied release in China, the second largest film market in the world. The powers that be in China say they don't believe this movie has a large enough following in China to deserve a release. In reality, this movie is suffering, and only time will tell whether it's a box office bomb or just a disappointment.
Spin: Financial Win
Verdict: TBD, but so far a Box Office Bomb/Big Disappointment
Dredd cost $50m to make, and it only made $35m during its theatrical run. The good thing is they barely spent any money on marketing, only around $20m, and if you ask Karl Urban it was actually much less than that. The movie then went on to make $20-25m in DVD sales, and then made a bunch of multi-million dollar streaming deals, so in the end the film paid for itself. While this movie isn't a huge failure overall, it's definitely a box office bomb. To me, any film that comes up around 35m dollars short of its overall cost during its theatrical run is a dud. Now, I think if they'd spent $100m on a marketing campaign for Dredd the film would've come out on top, but the "why" isn't important when you're determining whether or not a movie is a box office dud. However, this movie also picked up a fervent fanbase, and received positive reviews across the board. This is important to note, because a film that struggles to cross that financial finish line can still be the foundation for future entries if it garners enough interest in the long run. This movie is much more likely to spark a sequel than 'Terminator Genisys'. I mean, here it is four years later and people are still talking about the need for another one, or even having it made into a Netflix show.
Spin: Box Office Bomb
Verdict: Box Office Bomb/Huge Fan Success
When all is said and done, don't believe the headlines. Take a look at international sales just as much as domestic, because that's where idiots start their smear campaigns. The overall total number a movie made worldwide is what matters. Money is money, it doesn't matter where it's made, that doesn't change no matter what kind of headline people try to create.
Oh, and before people start getting all weird, I didn't cover theater licensing, studio endorsements, and all the other roundabout ways these movies might have made more on the backend. This is a blog article, not an analytical accounting essay that covers the total financial breakdowns of these movies in their entirety.