2011 Box Office Turkeys

By Phelan Warren

You always hear about the list of films that break all the records. Avatar becoming the top all-time overall box office in 2009 (inflation not adjusted) or this year’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 smashing all records of single day grosses. The film lists that don’t always come around as often are the year’s top box-office bombs or to go along with the current holiday season, the year’s top box-office turkeys.

Mars Needs Moms

Mars Needs MomsI have to start out this list with the major flop, Disney’s Mars Needs Moms. Not only does it top this year's worst box-office, it currently goes down in history as the fifth worst movie box-office of all time with a world wide gross of $38,992,758. That’s not a lot of money especially with the film’s budget coming in at $150 million or $175 million if you included marketing. It cost the Disney company approximately $136,000,000+ in net losses and forced the ending of the partnership between Disney and production company, ImageMovers Digital. To be completely honest, I don’t even know how this film got off the ground! It’s a film about a kid who doesn’t appreciate his mother until she is abducted by Martians  to look after their Martian youngsters. That has you rushing to the nearest cinema huh? Looking back up to the numbers, apparently not. Furthermore, having worked for “The Mouse” for four years, I don’t believe that the performing capturing animation used in the film really fits the Disney “image” or “brand.” For Disney is all about separating fantasy from reality and making the world look and feel like a better place.  This type of animation is a little too real looking for comfort and even off putting. This type of animation goes more with the look of Universal or even Nickelodeon films. I think they would have been better off with making Mars either live-action or full on Disney-esque animation. Maybe it would have helped attract more people to the cinema but then again, maybe not.

The Beaver

The BeaverThe second film on my list is the oddly titled, The Beaver starring Mel Gibson, Jodi Foster, and a  beaver hand-puppet. Yeah, it lost me at beaver hand-puppet. Besides the strange co-star and the-not-so marketable title, this was suppose to be controversial Mr Gibson’s come-back role. Interesting choice. Instead of picking his popular action/war hero role or even his somewhat successful run as romantic comedy leading man, he picked this quirky drama about a depressed family man who finds relief by talking through the stuffed toy. The film brought in $970,816 domestically and $6,370,816 worldwide. That hardly covers the $21 million budget but was obviously more appealing for non-US markets. The depressingly low domestic gross could most likely be contributed by the limited amount of screens the film was shown on, peaking only at 168 theatres. In any case, this was definitely not the come-back role or directorial masterpiece Gibson and Foster were hoping for.


Green Lantern

Green LanternNow this film had every opportunity to be a big hit with the super-hero movie franchise in full swing but Green Lantern failed to copy the mega box offices some of his comic book character buddies have in the past few years. The film did start out with the potential of living up to the hype, by making $53 million it’s opening weekend and coming in at number one on the weekly box-office numbers. It soon lost its momentum though, falling from first to fourth in a week and then all the way down to seventh place in its third week out with a 67% drop in ticket sales from the previous week.  The rapid fall probably has some connection to Transformers: Dark of the Moon coming out the week after Lantern luring its similar targeted market away. Now for the numbers. With a combined production and marking budget of $325 million, it had total world wide gross of $219,851,172 and a lack luster domestic gross of $116 million. That comes up with a net loss of $105 million. Also to take into account is the fact that 45% of ticket sales were attributed to the more expensive 3-D tickets. This shows that even less people came out to the cinema to see this film. Poor Ryan Reynolds. But don’t feel too sorry for him because his crime fighting days might not be over! Green Lantern 2 is still currently “in development” but then again films can be “in development” for years and years and years. So even if you were a fan of the first, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Conan: The Barbarian

Conan the BarbarianNext on to a similar type of movie. An action-adventure film with lots of fighting bad guys, proving oneself and beautifully finished off in wonderful overpriced 3D. Conan differs from Lantern though in the sheer gruesomeness of its violence. By having all the blood-splattering battles, it picked up an R rating and probably cut down a good chuck of its possible audience. I say this because it opened fourth, losing to Spy Kids 4D, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Help. All with a PG-13 rating or lower. That being said, the film did have it’s niche audience. Conan’s fantasy world of “Hyboria” drew in the revenge seekers and other worldly lovers to the cinema but just not as much as say “Middle Earth” once did. With a production and marketing budget of $90 million, it’s worldwide gross of $48,795,02 barely covered half of it’s costs leading to a net loss of over $41 million. Now that is reason to seek out revenge but keep the gore to a minimum. Interestingly the writer (or one of them) has an interesting piece on how it feels to write a flop.

The Big Year

The Big YearAlthough it has only really been released in United States, it has the worst opening box office of the year, with a total of just over $3.25 million and opening at number 9. I guess despite its star power and a production budget of $41 million, The Big Year, which stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, wasn’t enough to make three men going on an adventure of bird watching appeal to the masses. I have to say, before I started looking for films for this list, I had never heard of this film. You would think that with the A-listers it has in it there would have been some proper push of a marketing campaign. Maybe there was in the States after I left in August but it obviously didn’t work all that well. When it opened on the 14th of October, it was up against the remake of Footloose and The Thing. Two films that I have heard of beforehand but all of which should have found their own audience and done considerably well. They did to a certain extent but all failed to knock down Reel Steel from the top spot. I guess we’ll see how the bird watching comedy goes over with UK audiences when it opens in cinemas on the 2nd of December.

So there you have it. Five films that have failed to live up to expectations and hype at least number-wise. They all seem to have been cursed with either bad timing, unsuccessful marketing campaigns, or just a horrible idea for a film. All in all, they have made a mark in this year’s top box-office turkeys.  

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About The Author

Phelan WarrenPhelan Warren is a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Radio, Television and Film. She is currently interning in London with Raindance for six months. Phelan has previously interned at the Newport Beach Film Festival back in California. She hopes to pursue a career in film and television production.




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2011 Movie Box Office Turkeys