Bloodbath: Which Films Risk Being The Blockbuster Casualties Of 2012?

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
February 2, 2012 4:09 PM
24 Comments
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Almost eighteen months ago, actor-turned-filmmaker Jon Favreau predicted that the summer of 2011 was "...going to be a bloodbath. There's never been a summer like this next summer. It's going to be bloody...There's not a weekend where there won't be teeth on the floor. The audience wins, but it's going to be rough for people making these movies. Then there was the big rush to 3D, so you have all of these people fighting for a limited number of screens and to get the 3D done, since most of these are hybrids or conversions, so this is a technology that is still in the relatively early stages and there's going to be a lot of blood pressures going up in the months ahead."

And he wasn't far wrong (in fact the words are probably haunting him still today). Things weren't quite as bad as he predicted (at least not for others); while domestic grosses were down in general, international were way up, with several films crossing the billion dollar mark across the globe, and some of the films that were most problematic on paper -- "Thor," "Super 8," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" -- proved to be big hits. But there were a number of high-profile casualties as well, including, ironically, Favreau's own film, "Cowboys & Aliens," while "Green Lantern" and "X-Men: First Class" disappointed when compared to their Marvel competition. Ryan Reynolds had two flops ("The Change-Up," "Green Lantern") and August proved to be the predicted clusterfuck, with "Conan," "Fright Night," "Spy Kids 4" and "30 Minutes or Less" all doing near-disastrous business.

But has Hollywood calmed things down for this summer? Of course not. A couple of days ago, Universal made the summer a little more crowded by moving Oliver Stone's "Savages" to the July 4th weekend, a bold move for a film without superheroes or CGI monsters. And indeed, the summer movie season seems to start at the beginning of March, and wrap up, well, on December 30th, with a steady stream of would-be tentpoles taking us through the rest of the year. And it can only follow that not everything will land; indeed, many of this year's films seem like riskier propositions than last year's. There are certain sure-fire hits out there: "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Avengers," "Brave," "The Hobbit," "Skyfall" and "The Hunger Games." But what are the films that could be in trouble?

"47 Ronin"
What Is It And Who Does It Star? Keanu Reeves toplines an epic actioner, shot in 3D, retelling the famous Japanese legend of the titular 47 masterless samurai who set out to avenge their master. He's backed up by Japanese stars including Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel") and Hiroyuki Sanada ("The Last Samurai"), while commercials helmer Carl Erik Rinsch, who at one time was set to direct the project that became "Prometheus," makes his feature debut.
What's The Risk Factor? With "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" having proven that action-adventure fare can work in the holiday season, the studios have lined up plenty of possibilities this November and December with Bond, Hobbits, Bin Laden and zombies, among others. But "47 Ronin" is less of a sure bet: a tale less than familiar to audiences outside of Japan, with a star, Reeves, who hasn't led a studio movie in four years (since the underperforming "The Day the Earth Stood Still"). Furthermore, The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a story suggesting that newbie director Rinsch had clashed with the studio and gone way over budget, which syncs with rumors we've heard of late; namely, that a whopping ten weeks of additional photography were being planned, possibly with a new director at the helm. The film should play internationally, but given the giant cost, will that be enough? Especially with it opening the same day as the star-laden, reportedly game-changing "Gravity."
What's The Cost? THR says it began with a $175 budget, but has long since crossed that mark. Let's call it $200 million, but even that's likely to be conservative.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? "The Day the Earth Stood Still" closed out over $200 million, which would barely cover the production budget here, let alone P&A. Then again, "The Last Samurai" made nearly $500 million worldwide, and that didn't have the audience-pleasing fantasy elements that this does. But it did have Tom Cruise. Even with a $175 million dollar budget, this one's going to have to be a huge hit even break even.
When? November 21st

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"
Who's In It And What's It About? Russian helmer Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") directs a Tim Burton-produced take on the best-selling novel, with newcomer Benjamin Walker as the legendary president, who, as it turns out, had a secret second career as an undead-fighter. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson and Alan Tudyk co-star.
What's The Risk Factor? Silly titles are all well and good for grabbing attention, but as "Snakes On a Plane" and "Hot Tub Time Machine" proved, they don't necessarily convert into dollar bills. As such, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" has a disadvantage, and its little-known cast won't help matters very much, and neither will opening on the same day as Pixar's "Brave." That being said, Tim Burton's name as producer means a certain amount, and a striking trailer with Bekmambetov's trademark killer visuals could help this become something of a sleeper.
What's The Cost? Relatively cheap compared to its competition, targeted at about $70 million, which should help it into profitablity.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Fox would be over the moon with anything near the $340 million that "Wanted" made, but this won't perform anywhere near as well internationally, and is absent Angelina Jolie. This one's either going to be a surprise hit a la "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," or one that mostly goes unnoticed like "Fright Night."
When? June 22nd

"The Amazing Spider-Man"
What Is It And Who Does It Star? A reboot of Sony's key superhero franchise, with Andrew Garfield as your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, Emma Stone as lady-love Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as the villainous Lizard. "(500) Days Of Summer" helmer Marc Webb directs.
What's The Risk Factor? Given that the previous "Spider-Man" movies were all giant blockbusters (the first remains the second-biggest grossing superhero movie), it feels odd to call Sony's reboot "a risk." But in a summer with "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Avengers," both as close to sure-fire hits as there can be, it doesn't dominate in the same way, and there seems to be a genuine resistance among both geeks and the general public to a reboot so hot on the heels of the third film, however disliked that was. That early teaser trailer with the video-game POV shot didn't help matters. That being said, it's one of the best known action-adventure properties; the Comic-Con footage suggested a film that could give Raimi a run for his money; and Sony is about to restart their marketing campaign with "Dark Knight Rises"-style sneak peek screenings next week.
What's It Cost? Despite early talk of a relatively low $90 million budget, this is more likely in the upper echelon ballpark of most tentpoles (likely at least $140 million), although probably not as high as the giant $260 million that "Spider-Man 3" cost.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Barring the film becoming an unexpected phenomenon, we're expecting this to take the same reboot drop that "Batman Begins" and "X-Men First Class" did, but it should still be a healthy number.
When? July 4th
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24 Comments

  • Damien | February 9, 2012 1:05 AMReply

    What does it matter whether The Help only took $35 million internationally? It still reigned in just over $200 million with a budget of $25 million. That's huge dollars.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 10:17 AMReply

    8. Love Will Smith. Like Sonnenfeld. Love the Men In Black movies. However, I'm strangely not feeling this sequel. The franchise just feels empty and "done" now. Maybe I'll get hyped for it later? Don't know. The whole thing feels off kilter. Smith seems like he is running scared back to this franchise, when there is no reason to be. He had a couple of flicks that mildly underperformed and he seems to have freaked out. There was no huge backlash against him, nor did any film of his truly bomb. But nevertheless, Smith seemed to be unnerved and avoided doing another movie for 4 years and then came back fleeing to a tired franchise. It makes no sense. 9. Even though she was cruelly snubbed this awards season, superstar and goddess Charlize Theron is set to have a VERY good year with the one-two punch of Prometheus and Snow White.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:46 AMReply

    4. Why is Judge Dredd even being made? Karl Urban deserves so much better than this. Hollywood has squandered his potential as the next Go To action star. 5. Gangster Squad looks tired and tiresome. And also in desperate need of a tailor since all the suits are hanging off the actors like potato sacks. Young Hercules is the real deal, potential superstar in waiting, but only if he quits clinging to this marginal indie stuff and embraces some mainstream, crowd pleasing movies. 6. GI Joe 2 looks more entertaining than it has any right to be and Channing Tatum seems to die early on. Bonus! 7. Are you trying to tell me that someone spent more than $125 million on The Great Gatsby?! LIES. That doesn't even make any sense. It's a dusty old book that puts all its readers to sleep, that is if anybody still bothers to read it anymore. There is nothing in that story that should cost more to film than Leo's lunch money.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:21 AMReply

    2. Nobody asked for a Spider-Man reboot. However, given that the beloved former franchise was pulling in near a billion dollars, they could show a blank screen, title it "Spider-Man" and still garner half a billion easy. 3. By the end of summer, Taylor Kitsch will either be the biggest superstar in the world or a pariah suffering a backlash the size of which not seen since the public rebelled against Jude Law being shoved down their throat in everything. (Note: I like Jude Law). Law's career never really recovered, nor similarly has Colin Farrell's.

  • Padre | February 6, 2012 8:58 AMReply

    Going to have to break this into parts, since 10 pages of text was stuffed into this article. Firstly: 47 RONIN is my MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!! Your weak slights against SUPERSTAR Keanu Reeves leave you in ill favor with me and out of touch with current culture of worldwide Keanu lovefest. Even now he is in China conquering hearts and minds, plastered all over their local press and forging the One Ring: "All shall love me and despair!" If 47 Ronin, my most anticipated movie of the year, is anything less than thrilling and superlative, I shall be DEVASTATED! The entire year shall have been rendered null and meaningless! There would be no purpose or point to this year of cinema if 47 Ronin fails to live up to my hopes and desires. Don't let me down Carl Rinsch!

  • Olli | February 3, 2012 5:27 AMReply

    Funny that after changing the title from "John Carter of Mars" to "John Carter", they still use the JCM-Logo on every one-sheet and in every trailer.
    To me the JCM-trailers don`t look bad but they look kind of "been there - done that" which isn't the best way to lure me into my local multiplex.
    And for "Battleship" I don't have the slightest bit of hope that movie might be better than any "Transformers" film. Why? Because in the trailers it looks and sounds exactly like Tranformers. Only Peter Berg at the helm may surprise me as he did with "Hancock" and especially with "The kingdom".

  • brou | February 3, 2012 5:21 AMReply

    The new featurette for "John Carter" makes it look much more interesting : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQTyOeRdhxo

  • Glass | February 3, 2012 3:06 AMReply

    If Transformers taught me anything about blockbusters with a laughable origin (toys/board games), it's that the whole thing is one killer trailer away from being a guaranteed smash. All it takes is one big trailer to give the word-of-mouth a 180°.

  • jimmiescoffee | February 3, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    'john carter' should be renamed 'bad investment from the company that brought you the sorcerer's apprentice, mars needs moms and prince of persia.'

  • Oogle monster | February 3, 2012 2:12 AM

    TRUTH BOMB.

  • Mony | February 2, 2012 10:43 PMReply

    Loved this, some parts were funny to read. Some of the films I agree are taking a huge risk, like John Carter - 300 million budget or more? that's crazy for a movie that looks weird. Mirror Mirror looks like crap, however, if they get the audience they are targeting for, it might do ok.

    Should be interesting to see what happens with these movies you have on the list.

  • Marko | February 2, 2012 10:32 PMReply

    So no possibility of Cloud Atlas bombing?

  • ter | February 2, 2012 6:13 PMReply

    The Great Gatsby will be a disaster critically, that's for sure. And I can't imagine the crowds coming out for a movie about the first world problems of the 1% either.

  • Nolan | February 3, 2012 2:51 PM

    I love the Great Gatsby, and would thoroughly enjoy a new, terrific film version, but the decision to film in 3D really leaves me questioning the integrity of the thing. What part of that book would need to be in 3D? What could possibly be enhanced by 3D? The opulence of Gatsby's mansion? Jordan's bad driving? It's just silly.

  • Oogle monster | February 2, 2012 10:40 PM

    Why are you so sure? When Baz is on point he really delivers... I think he will do a splendid job and prove all you haters wrong. And if all you got from The Great Gatsby is "first world problems of the 1%" then you should befriend Sparknotes or go back to high school- which ever is easier.

  • joshb | February 2, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    did you really just say, "let's not beat around the bush" right after commenting on Rhianna and Mrs. Andy Roddick's boobs?

  • Cde. | February 2, 2012 5:44 PMReply

    The article says that John Carter's budget was pushed by reshoots to a number closer to $300 million than the initial $200 million budget. As I understand it, they went above and beyond $300 million and it's closer to 400. Thus, the $700 million figure to make the studio consider a sequel.

  • Bryan | February 2, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    Jessica Biel's the other lead in Total Recall, not Eva Mendes.

  • Kendrick | February 2, 2012 10:41 PM

    Aren't they the same person? Talentless, boring, semi-hot, robots?

  • YOYOMA | February 2, 2012 5:45 PM

    Interchangeable, Bryan. 'TIS THE POINT.

  • sal | February 2, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    don't see why you have to be so hard on Battleship. Peter Berg always makes movies with dark humor.

  • Kert | February 2, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    "Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises." What franchises has Theron been a part of? Hancock was sold on Will Smith and Aeon Flux... well... lets not talk about that. Out of the three, Theron is the only A-list movie star who has managed to pull pretty good numbers for Monster and Young Adult, both of which capitalized on her name (she was the lead) and awards season. Young Adult will hit 20 mil soon and has already earned back its budget and hasn't even expanded overseas. I think it's only playing in 2 markets overseas.

  • Russell | February 2, 2012 4:32 PMReply

    Expecting Battleship to do well in the UK - Why? You think so little of us, as a nation of film goers, that we're all going to run off to pay to see that steaming pile - why playlist? WHY?!?

    ok, you're probably right

  • sp | February 2, 2012 4:25 PMReply

    I hope Benjamin Walker will have a huge hit with " Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. "
    He is very talented.

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