As you sweat through filing your taxes, remember that Hollywood does the same thing, only on a much, much bigger scale.
Obscene amounts of money are spent making and promoting movies every day and, as you well know, some of those movies don’t make that money back. When faced with a flop of epic proportions, like “John Carter” or “47 Ronin,” Hollywood writes it off as a big, public loss. Thanks to “Hollywood accounting,” the exact amount of money lost on these movies will never be fully known. In putting this list together, we came across wildly varying reports about how big these staggering losses really were, but any way you cut it, these movies tanked and tanked big.
Does that mean Hollywood will stop spending hundreds of millions making movies? Not if there’s a chance for billions to be made.
Here’s our list of some of the biggest tax write-offs ever. (Some adjusted for inflation.)
Gallery | Biggest Box Office Bombs
- 1. ‘Mars Needs Moms’ (2011)
Between this animated flop, “John Carter,” and the disappointing “Mission to Mars,” we hope Hollywood got the message: Audiences Hate Mars! Although it came from blockbuster director Robert Zemeckis, this movie failed to appeal to either families, kids or adults. Between its $ 150 million production budget, an unspecified marketing budget, and its measly $ 6.9 debut, it left a huge, gaping hole in Disney’s budget.
Estimated write-off: $ 200 million
- 2. ‘John Carter’ (2012)
Disney’s 2012 epic has unfortunately become synonymous with “box-office disaster.” It grossed $ 73 million, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that it cost a staggering $ 250 million to make. Audiences just weren’t sold on the character, or its leading man, Taylor Kitsch, who suffered another more high-profile bomb in 2012, “Battleship.”
Estimated write-off: $ 200 million (The L.A Times reports that it was a smaller $ 84 million loss)
- 3. ’47 Ronin’ (2013)
Keanu Reeves’s samurai film that opened on December 25, 2013, reportedly cost $ 175 million but grossed only $ 38 million. (It’s opening weekend was a lower-than-low $ 9.9 million, even during the 5-day holiday.) That was only enough to recoup its marketing budget, according to USA Today.
Estimated write-off: $ 175 million
- 4. ‘The Lone Ranger’ (2013)
Despite being retooled to lower its mega-budget to a mere (cough) $ 215 million, “The Lone Ranger” because the latest flop for Johnny Depp, as well as an added embarrassment for Disney after “John Carter,” and one more sign that modern audiences just aren’t into big-budget westerns. Phil Contrino, chief analyst for Boxoffice.com described it as “the kind of bomb that people discuss for years to come.”
Estimated write-off: $ 160-190 million
- 5. ‘Cutthroat Island’ (1995)
Renny Harlin’s attempt to launch then-wife Geena Davis as an action star never took off, including this really not-that-terrible pirate movie, which was listed as the worst box-office bomb in the Guinness Book of Records. It cost more than $ 100 million but took in less than $ 10 million, bankrupting Carolco Pictures. Adjusted for inflation, it still ranks high among the biggest bombs of all time.
Estimated write-off: $ 145.4 million
- 6. ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’ (2002)
This Eddie Murphy bomb, which cost about $ 100 million, earned a painfully puny $ 7.1 million, even when you combine domestic and international box office. According to Time, if you adjust for inflation, its losses are even higher.
Estimated write-off: $ 145 million
- 7. ‘Town & Country’ (2001)
This long-in-the-works comedy (starring long-in-the-tooth skewing-stars Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn) racked up massive overruns thanks to endless reshoots and delays. The final budget was reported to be a ridiculous $ 90 million. Since it netted only $ 6.7 million at the box office, that’s a whopping loss of $ 83.3 million in 2001 dollars.
Estimated write-off: $ 111.5 million
- 8. ‘The Postman’ (1997)
This apocalyptic bomb did even worse than Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” earning just $ 17.6 million against a reported $ 80 million budget. That’s a loss of $ 62.4 million at the time, a number that only goes up when you adjust for inflation.
Estimated write-off: $ 91.7 million
- 9. ‘Battlefield Earth’ (2000)
This John Travolta vanity project, based on a sci-fi book by Scientologist founder L. Ron Hubbard, is still considered one of the biggest flops of all time. The film cost $ 75 million, plus $ 20 million to market and grossed only $ 29 million worldwide. If you adjust for inflation, the loss is nearly $ 100 million.
Estimated write-off: $ 91 million
- 10. ‘Green Lantern’ (2011)
Ryan Reynolds as a wisecracking superhero, what could go wrong? Outside of comic-book geeks, folks didn’t seem to know (or care) about the D.C. hero and the scathing reviews didn’t help. It earned back only $ 116.6 million of its $ 200 million budget, according to Boxofficemojo.com. The Hollywood Reporter suggested it would have had to make $ 500 million to turn a profit.
Estimated write-off: $ 83.4 million
- 11. ‘Battleship’ (2012)
Poor Taylor Kitsch: 2012 should have been his breakout year. Instead, his two big action movies bombed and bombed hard. Besides the box-office crater left by “John Carter,” “Battleship” grossed only $ 65 million back of its $ 220 budget. Nobody wanted to see Rihanna act or Kitsch battle aliens yet again.
Estimated write-off: $ 83 million
- 12. ‘R.I.P.D.’ (2013)
This Jeff Bridges / Ryan Reynolds ghost-hunting dud left audiences completely indifferent: It took in only $ 33.6 million during its box-office run. According to The Hollywood Reporter, its budget was somewhere between $ 130 and $ 150 million.
Estimated write-off: $ 80 million
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Main article photo courtesy of Everett