The third weekend of October has been a rough one for new releases, but it was especially so for Warner Bros./ Skydance’s disaster flick “Geostorm,” which is looking like it will be the biggest box office flop of the fall season.
Directed by Dean Devlin and co-financed by Skydance and Ratpac, the film had a reported price tag of $120 million, including $15 million spent on extensive reshoots. But this weekend, the film only made a mere $13.4 million at the domestic box office. Overseas, the film has done better with just under $50 million with a Chinese release coming next weekend. Still, this is likely to be the second big-budget disappointment for WB this year, joining “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which made $146.5 million against a $175 million budget.
But between those two flops, WB had gone on a four-month winning streak, making over $1 billion combined at the domestic box office from “Wonder Woman,” “Dunkirk,” “Annabelle: Creation” and “It,” the latter of which will cross $650 million worldwide today. But between the disappointment of “Blade Runner 2049” — which WB distributed but did not produce — and “Geostorm,” October has left WB waiting until “Justice League” can hopefully end 2017 on a high note.
So, what led “Geostorm” into stormy seas? Here are our reasons:
1. Weak Promotion
“Geostorm” had extremely dissonant trailers that seemed to sell very different movies. One trailer sold the film as an intense, dramatic disaster film with shots of cities being destroyed by extreme weather events. Another focused on the film’s humor and action scenes, under which upbeat rock music was played in the background.
When a consistent tone isn’t established with trailers, it can confuse audiences as to what the film will be like. Word-of-mouth was also stifled, as the film’s review embargo was set close to release time, and no Thursday preview screenings were held, a rarity for a wide release. Ultimately, it received a B- on CinemaScore and a terrible 13 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes
2. Real-Life Natural Disasters
“Geostorm” has been a victim of the headlines. Hurricanes have destroyed Houston, Key West and Puerto Rico. Earthquakes have heavily damaged Mexico City. Wildfires have burned throughout North America and Europe. Just this past weekend, cyclones have ravaged Ireland and fueled wildfires burning in Portugal and Spain with their heavy winds.
With such shocking natural disasters damaging cities and affecting countless people, the prospect of seeing dramatized natural disasters isn’t likely to be appetizing for moviegoers. The disasters affected the film’s marketing, as posters for the film were removed from Florida theaters as Hurricane Irma moved in, while trailers and TV spots reduced the footage of cities being flooded by tsunamis. Studio sources tell TheWrap that the film’s strongest performance in North America came on the West Coast and in Canada, while numbers lagged heavily along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
3. Is This “Independence Day 3?”
Dean Devlin’s past partnership with Roland Emmerich shows, as much of the promotional footage for “Geostorm” looks interchangeable with many of Emmerich’s disaster films like “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” CGI scenes of cities being destroyed, protagonists evading collapsing buildings in vehicles, and scientific impossibilities have become Emmerich’s trademark… and they’re all seen here in “Geostorm.” That can lead to a feeling among audiences that they’ve seen this before.
4. October Is a Dumping Ground
The performance of films like “Get Out” and “It” have shown that a hit can be released at any time of the year, but that doesn’t mean that studios haven’t set off certain parts of the calendar as throat-clearing periods before a flurry of big releases hits the cinemas.
Aside from “The Fate of the Furious,” April was a largely uneventful month prior to the start of the summer box office season, and the second half of October has turned out to be the same. According to Box Office Mojo, this weekend’s total box office gross is expected to finish at around $93 million, the fourth lowest of any weekend this year. Aside from Halloween-flavored offerings like “Happy Death Day,” “Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween” and “Jigsaw,” no films are getting any traction right now.
But starting with “Thor: Ragnarok” in two weeks, that will completely change, as a horde of highly-anticipated blockbusters, holiday titles and Oscar contenders hit screens to bring in moviegoers. With such heavy competition, it’s likely that “Geostorm,” which was originally slated for a March 2016 release before being pushed back three times to this weekend, was placed here to minimize the competition it would go against.