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7 Film Failures That Killed Studios

Aug. 13 4:02 PM by Brady Sullivan

Box office bombs are nothing special. Every so often an Adventures of Pluto Nash or Stealth gets unleashed on a public that recognizes how terrible it will be and refuse to go. And have you seen the public lately? Your movie has to be pretty damn bad to tip these people off. But once in a great while, a film will emerge that does so poorly that it manages to destroy not just Hollywood careers, but entire movie studios. So join us in paying tribute to these 7 studio killing disasterpieces

7- Million Dollar Mystery

At first glance, Million Dollar Mystery seems like nothing more than a bad rip-off of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad (is that too many Mads?) World. An ex-White House employee tells a Diner full of kooky characters where he has hidden 4 million dollars, each million hidden separately. Naturally crazy, comical antics ensue as the motley crew find and subsequently lose all three of the first million dollar bounties. So far just a less entertaining Rat Race. And Rat Race wasn't exactly a laugh riot. However, here's the twist: during the credits a member of the cast appears to tell the audience to follow the clues on special Glad-Bags so they can track down the fourth million themselves! Unfortunately even this marketing scam didn't help the movie, which grossed even less for the studio than that million dollars they promised. De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, which produced the gimmicky disaster, folded soon after the failure. Probably didn't help that one of the few movies they made after was called Dracula's Widow.

6- Heaven's Gate

Westerns are great. War movies are great. Combining the two should produce a guy's dream picture filled with explosions and badass cowboys. But what if that "war" the film is based on is the Johnson County War, a dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming. Are you kidding me? I almost fell asleep during that sentence alone, let alone sitting through the movie. Real estate squabbling between a bunch of rich guys in Wyoming is not the kind of renegade excitement we expect from a Western. The public agreed and didn't show up to fill the seats, leaving United Artists with a dud on it's hands. Though previously a successful studio, United Artists was soon passed around like a hot potato between other studios and essentially shut down completely. But at least the movie did give us a vomiting Jeff Bridges and a fiddler, both on roller skates. That's something.

Check out a trailer for Heaven's Gate here.

5- One From the Heart

Francis Ford Coppola is normally associated with greatness. People hear his name and flashes of The Godfather fill their head. But despite his looming presence in Hollywood, let's not forget he made one of the biggest studio disappointments ever as well. This ill-fated musical was all based in Las Vegas, so it seems like they could have produced it for next to nothing. Just show up on the strip and shoot. But no, the finicky director insisted on never venturing to Vegas and had replicas of all the locations built in at his Zoetrope Studio compound, leading to a grossly enlarged budget. Add in an abysmal box office performance and it's a perfect recipe for a studio's worst nightmare. It forced Coppola to shut down the Zoetrope (though the name is still used, the sound studio is closed), as well as stinging Columbia Pictures to the point where Coca-Cola had to swing in to save the day by buying them out the same year. Who said Coca Cola was a heartless corporation?

Check out a news report about One From the Heart here.

4- Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

The Final Fantasy games are massive hits and considered to be among, if not the top gaming franchise juggernauts. Hironobu Sakaguchi made the mistake of thinking that would translate to massive box office success with a film. Of course he forgot that people like the games because they get to play them, which is exactly what they sat home and did while the film died a quick death. It was a stunning technical masterpiece at the time for its beautiful graphics, but too bad it was also something else incredible at its time: the biggest box office bomb. It lost around $94 million, a pretty impressive record as far as failures go. Square Pictures, who developed the movie, were devastated and a lucrative merger with Enix was postponed because of how awful the movie did. It may not have been the Final Fantasy after all, but it was definitely the last one we'll see on the big screen.

Check out a trailer for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within here.

3- Titan A.E.

Animated movies have long been the ground for strictly Disney style kiddy faire. Sure, some are more appealing to adults than others, but rarely does a non-G rated movie roll around. Titan A.E. set out to break down this barrier by creating a revolutionary post-apocalyptic sci-fi animated film aimed at an older, action craving crowd. Unfortunately instead of breaking the barrier it proved why it was there, as audiences flocked to see anything other than this confusing animated film. The opening weekend was so bad that Fox Animation Studios, which made it, immediately shut down. Even they knew there was no hope after that kind of failure. If only the public had read why the film was rated PG-13: action-violence, mild sensuality and brief language. Animated sensuality (too bad it's only mild) and violence! If they were in the same scene maybe it would have drawn in a few creepy guys at least.

Check out a trailer for Titan A.E. here.

2- Battlefield Earth

Oh, Battlefield Earth. What is there left to say about you that millions before have not already said? You are a terrible, terrible movie and we all hate you. It took a movie like this to make me wish Quentin Tarantino had never bothered to revive Travolta's career in the first place. If you aren't fully aware yet of how crazy scientology is, just realize this monstrosity was based on a novel by the insane mind that spilled forth that religion. What's sad is that the fallout from Battlefield Earth's colossal failure is far more interesting than anything that went on in the movie. The horrible box office performance led to a group of investors to take a look at the books on Battlefield Earth and other movies being produced by Franchise Pictures. Turns out they were inflating the budgets of movies to scam investors and didn't cover their tracks well enough. Oops! They ended up going bankrupt, meaning a sequel ever being made is unlikely. Thank Xenu.

Check out a trailer for Battlefield Earth here.

1- Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island is the reason why the success of Pirates of the Caribbean was such a surprise. It had been a decade since this voyage set sail in 1995, but no one could yet forget how quickly it sank. Starring Geena Davis (mistake number one), this sea-faring flop focused on, what else, a treasure hunt that brought the cast to the menacingly (and typically named) Cutthroat Island. Once there they ran around with swords long enough to run up the budget to $100 million. Too bad the audiences must have lost their maps, because they never made it in to see this nautical nightmare. It only made $10 million, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the worst box office flop in history. Carolco Pictures, which produced it, took a swift walk off the plank and closed its doors soon after. This once again proves my controversial theory that people like Johnny Depp better than Geena Davis.

Check out a trailer for Cutthroat Island here.


I actually enjoy watching Battlefield Earth, along with Water world, and The Postman..For some reason I like watching really bad science fiction movies.


Oh also enjoyed FF and Titan AE..weird.You can watch Titan AE for free at Hulu.com.


"From the writers of Revenge of the Nerds"

lamest. posterquote. ever.


I actually thoroughly enjoyed Spirits Within. It's one of my favourite movies, and I never really understood why people disliked it so much. It's sad that we didn't get to see any other films (other than Flight of the Osiris) from Square Pictures due to the failure. It's also not entirely correct to say that Spirits Within was the last Final Fantasy film we'll see on the big screen. A mere two years after the failure, Square began production of another Final Fantasy film (Advent Children). This one was much less ambitious, and was intended to be a direct-to-DVD affair. It did, however, see a very limited theatrical release.

It should also be pointed out that Titan A.E. didn't fail because it was bad (indeed, it has a 70% user rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and received praise from Ebert), but because the marketing for it was horrible mismanaged.


A mere two years after the failure, Square began production of another Final Fantasy film (Advent Children). This one was much less ambitious, and was intended to be a direct-to-DVD affair. It did, however, see a very limited theatrical release.

In the US, this is true. In Japan, it had a national theatre run and was never fully intended to be a straight-to-DVD movie. It was just never really meant to be released outside of the US, but international sales figures of Final Fantasy VII motivated the decision for the limited theatrical release in the US and elsewhere followed by a DVD release.


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