3 Reasons Why ‘Baywatch’ Wiped Out at the Box Office

Not even Dwayne Johnson could keep Paramount from another flop

“Baywatch” wasn’t expected to be an enormous hit, but Paramount/Skydance’s latest film has failed to reach even the modest expectations of box office projections.

Against a budget of approximately $68 million, “Baywatch” is looking at a five-day total of $26 million, well below the $40-42 million target set by independent trackers. That number will barely beat out the four-day $24.4 million total estimated for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in its fourth weekend.

The film was savaged by critics, as it received only 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. There were hopes that leading man Dwayne Johnson, who has become one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, could sustain audience interest in the film. Instead, “Baywatch” has failed to outperform another R-rated Dwayne Johnson title, “Pain & Gain,” which had a three-day opening of $24 million.

There’s still a chance for Paramount to make its money back as it starts rolling out overseas next weekend. The appeal of the 90s TV series “Baywatch” is adapted from and the star power of Johnson could be stronger with international audiences. Still, it faces an uphill climb to get out of the red, as Warner Bros. will be releasing “Wonder Woman” in 50 international markets at the same time.

So what put “Baywatch” in this situation? Here are our reasons:

1.) Heavy competition

Let’s get the obvious reasons out of the way. Even though franchise fatigue has set in — at least domestically — on “Pirates of the Caribbean,” another PG-13 adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow still has more appeal and box office upside for Memorial Day audiences than a R-rated comedy that has been largely marketed via its raunchy humor.

“Guardians Vol. 2” is also holding on well deep into its holdover stages, as it has passed its predecessor’s global total on Sunday and will do the same with domestic totals tomorrow. Both franchises remain fresher in the minds of audiences than a movie based on a TV show that finished its run 16 years ago.

2.) Missing the point of “Baywatch”

Though the iconic image of “Baywatch” was of David Hasselhoff running on the beach with buxom women, the series itself had an early evening slot during much of its run thanks to its relatively tame subject matter. For example, the relationship between Hasselhoff’s character, Mitch Buchannon, and his son was a common plot thread, as Mitch tried to be an upstanding single parent.

“Baywatch” the movie, on the other hand, aims for sleazy slapstick comedy and was marketed to audiences who might have enjoyed the antics of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill on their adaptation of “21 Jump Street.” TV spots for the film featured a gag where Johnson (stepping into Hasselhoff’s role) and Zac Efron’s hotshot character peruse a corpse’s most intimate parts for evidence. By attempting to use a show that was a family-friendly melodrama at its heart as the basis for a raunchy comedy, “Baywatch” put off both fans of the show and casual audiences who didn’t care for the source material.

3.) Male gaze vs. female gaze

Yes, it’s a crass thing to analyze, but let’s face it: one of the most enduring legacies of “Baywatch” was that it made Pamela Anderson the biggest sex symbol of the 90s. While the storylines helped keep the show kid-safe, it was the bountiful amount of male gaze Anderson and her fellow lady lifeguards got that hooked the 18-35 male demographic.

The movie’s marketing, on the other hand, puts the focus largely on Johnson and Efron, with their ripped physiques on display for a female gaze instead. Paramount’s marketing team can’t be blamed for doing this. Johnson, after all, is one of Hollywood’s social media titans, with his pictures lifting weights regular fodder for his Instagram followers. Efron, meanwhile, has shed the squeaky clean image of his “High School Musical” years and has found raunch success with the “Neighbors” films, where he also gave his fair share of female gaze.

Still, none of the female lifeguards in the film are given a chance to match Anderson’s presence, either in the film or the marketing. Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera are secondary on the film’s marketing and, in the film, their characters are nowhere near fleshed out as their TV counterparts. Putting more focus on them in both departments might have given the film broader appeal.