Early numbers suggest that Universal Pictures’ samurai film starring Keanu Reeves could be joining “Lone Ranger” and “Jack the Giant Slayer” in this year's box-office hall of shame
Universal has already accepted it will lose money on “47 Ronin,” taking write-downs for the samurai tale starring Keanu Reeves. The movie, which opened in the States on Christmas Day, has grossed $10.7 million at the domestic box office – and the reception overseas has been tepid thus far as well.
Yet Universal won't say how large those write-downs were.
“Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment,” the studio said in statement to TheWrap. “In the case of '47 Ronin,’ we adjusted film costs in previous quarters and as a result our financial performance will not be negatively impacted this quarter by its theatrical performance.”
In other words, Universal has already taken a couple of punches to the stomach, and by the time Comcast reports earnings in early 2013, people will have forgotten about “47 Ronin.”
Until someone unearths a figure for how much Universal has lost, it will be hard to estimate the movie's damage to the studio's bottom line. Saying you took a write-down on a film without saying how large a write-down is a little like saying there was a major earthquake without revealing its magnitude.
TheWrap has reached out to a few analysts who follow this space closely, but they seem to be enjoying their Christmas vacation. And rightfully so.
However, we can compare “47 Ronin” to others in its species. Here are the four biggest flops of the year:
“The Lone Ranger”
Budget: $215 million
Opening Weekend: $29 million
Grosses: $260.5 million
Write-down: $160-$190 million
“White House Down”
Budget: $150 million
Opening Weekend: $24 million
Grosses: $205 million
Write-down: N/A, but the studio did lose $181 million in its second quarter (“After Earth” didn't help either)
“Jack the Giant Slayer”
Budget: $195 million
Opening Weekend: $27 million
Budget: $130 million
Opening Weekend: $12.7 million
Grosses: $78.3 million
And here's Ronin:
Budget: $175 million
Opening Weekend: $15-$20 million (est.)
Ronin's opening weekend will land somewhere in between “White House Down” and “R.I.P.D.,” but as with every movie of this size, it will all come down to those foreign numbers.
There are other movies this year that lost their studios money. “Beautiful Creatures” was one of the year's early misfires, grossing $60 million with a $60 million budget, while “Ender's Game” disappointed in November, grossing $88 million from a budget of $110 million.
Yet neither of those cost as much as the five films discussed above, all of which likely cost a lot more than their studios are willing to admit.