Surprise! Disney Tallies 'Lone Ranger' Losses, Could Be As High as $190 Million

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by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
August 7, 2013 2:00 PM
6 Comments
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"The Lone Ranger"

Disney will take a $160 to $190 million write-off for box office disappointment "The Lone Ranger," according to the studio's third quarter fiscal earnings call. 

The film has so far earned $176 million worldwide, with an $87 million domestic haul. It cost more than $215 million to produce--likely way more.

Steven Spielberg is shaping up as a Hollywood Cassandra, as he prophesied an industry implosion of big-budget losses. Sure enough, at least five would-be tentpoles have tanked, including Sony's "After Earth," "White House Down," Universal's "R.I.P.D," DreamWorks' "Turbo," and particularly Disney's "Ranger" as examples of studios over-swamping the market with high-pricetag films, and paying the piper for it. While Warner Bros./Legendary's "Pacific Rim" seems to be pulling out of the red via healthy ticket sales in Asia, this past weekend Sony's "Smurfs" sequel did not open well. 

Disney chief Bob Iger said in the call to analysts that the studio "still believes in a tentpole strategy," and that "the way to rise above the din and the competition is a big film -- a big film, a big cast and big marketing behind it.” He cited juggernaut "Iron Man 3" as an example of this strategy working. But that win should not have paid for the other loss. 

"Lone Ranger" star Johnny Depp recently made news for blaming film critics for the failure of the film, saying "I think the reviews were probably written when they heard that Gore and Jerry and I were going to do [the film.]" Armie Hammer agreed, saying critics have "been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time." (Watch below.)

But as NY Times critic A.O. Scott pointed out over Twitter, it's not negative critical reaction that sinks a film: "Studios go to great pains to engineer critic-proof movies."

And as we've pointed out, "The Lone Ranger" failed for other reasons, its lack of commerciality being the main one. With rare exceptions, Westerns don't play overseas. Plus, the property isn't well-known -- or known at all -- to young audiences. If the film needed critics, it should have been made at a much lower price point.

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More: News, Disney , The Lone Ranger, News, Box Office

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6 Comments

  • Donella | August 8, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    Pacific Rim is at $295,000,000 worldwide on a $190,000,000 production budget.

    After Earth is at $245,000,000 worldwide on a $130,000,000 production budget.

    After Earth and Pacific Rim are doing comparable business with healthy overseas ticket sales in Asia.

    UNLIKE White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and R.I.PD...... After Earth not only has earned back its producion budget, After Earth has nearly DOUBLED its production budget.

    Your movie comparisons require an examination of box office statistics.

  • Brian | August 8, 2013 4:44 PMReply

    The catering bill on the new Lone Ranger movie would have paid for EVERY Lone Ranger production in the past: radio show, TV show, 1950s movies, 1980 movie. And everything before the 1980 movie was really popular. I've had a chance to watch the 1950s movies and 1950s TV episodes recently and they were wonderful. I enjoyed them as a child, too.

  • Totts | August 7, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    I'm gonna agree with Depp on this one. I avoided The Lone Ranger like the plague because of the vast swath of terrible reviews it was getting. I then recommended friends to avoid it for the same reason. Then a month or so later, I saw it online and was surprised that it actually wasn't that bad. It's not Oscar worthy, but it wasn't meant to be. It's just an fun action flick. Not any worse than the Marvel films or other summer blockbusters.

  • John H. | August 7, 2013 5:37 PMReply

    That Iger says the studio still believes a tentpole strategy works is ludicrous. Disney's basic straetegy is "mo money" -- spending AND charging. It is very clear that this "strategy" doesn't work. Look at "Tron: Legacy," "Prince of Persia," "G Force," "John Carter" and now "The Lone Ranger." Even "Monsters University" is getting its monstrous a** handed to it on a monstrous platter by "Despicable Me 2." "Pirates" and Marvel movies are the exceptions. And now with a very expensive director, very expensive writers, very expensive producers and apparently VERY expensive talent on board, the next "Star Wars" movie looks like it will be the most expensive "Star Wars" movie EVER made, meaning it will need to gross a minimum of $1.5 billion worldwide to even come close to being a hit. Disney needs to revisit its own history and stop trying to be the BMOC in the Hollywood club. What worked for Disney, brilliantly, in the past were inexpensive films that focused on great storytelling -- from "Splash" and the cheap-o Bette Midler/Touchstone movies of the 1980s to "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid," which were ultra-cheap compared to the costs on animation nowadays. Disney needs to STOP SPENDING MONEY and start thinking smartly.

  • Doryen Chin | August 7, 2013 4:03 PMReply

    People don't want to watch awful films. If they stopped making awful films, people would go back to the movies. It's pretty much that simple. Even a guy like Spielberg knows that.

    It isn't that audiences don't like big budget movies. It's that they don't like garbage. It doesn't have to be high art, it just has to be freaking good.

  • tyler4all | August 7, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    Bad reviews didn't make me walk out of the theater halfway through the movie. it was just bad. I'm glad it was a free pass I got from a friend otherwise i woulda been pissed. Bad writing, bad directing.

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