By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood August 7, 2013 at 2:00PM
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.