Five ways to avoid making a box office bomb

1 Sep

Five ways to avoid making a box office bomb
Johnny Depp and Arnie Hammer try to hide from bad reviews for The Lone Ranger (Picture: Disney Enterprises)

With news that The Lone Ranger is on course to become the biggest box office flop of all time, it’s a small wonder that the Hollywood money men haven’t come up with some ingenious formula to ensure that they won’t have to forego their next power lunch at The Polo Lounge.

Well, Mssrs Weinstein et al can rest easy, because I’ve cracked it for them.

Here follows the five hard and fast rules that will ensure those less than savvy execs avoid costing their studio yet another hundred million dollars.  Pay attention, because here comes the science.

1) Beware of Disney

One could be forgiven for thinking that having a studio of the calibre of Disney attached to your pet project would ensure success.  Well whilst the house of mouse has a fine track record and a distinguished history, they also boast the unenviable distinction of having three entries in the top 10 biggest box office duds of all time.

If The Lone Ranger does indeed post losses of upwards of $167million, then it will take the dreaded top spot away from fellow studio pic Mars Needs Moms.  Nope I’ve never heard of it either and that probably explains why this 2011 animated feature starring Seth Green (mega) lost the best part of $130million.  Joining them at number four is the much maligned John Carter, a polarising epic that failed to find an audience even though director Andrew Stanton ditched ‘of Mars’ from the title to appeal to a wider demographic.

2) Avoid orange

If proof were needed that orange should remain the preserve of the fruit, then the fact that no less than five of the top ten box office flops prominently feature the colour orange on their promotional posters should suffice.  John Carter, The 13th Warrior, Sahara, Stealth and The Alamo all sport an orange hue, but for good measure steer clear of orange circles which appear on three of the five.


3) Stay out of the desert

On paper, choosing the desert as your film’s locale might seem exotic, but the bottom line suggests that this is far from a wise choice and one that may leave your bank balance as barren as the Gobi. The Lone Rangers plays out in the wild west i.e. the desert, Matthew McConaughey pic Sahara, well that’s fairly self-explanatory and the majority of John Carter takes place either in the dusty Arizona Territory or on Mars, aka a massive desert.

4) And leave space well alone

Super franchises Star Wars and Star Trek are in fact exceptions rather than the rule when it comes to banking the bucks.  Four of our top ten busts take place in space, with Mars proving a particular turn off in the case of Mars Needs Moms and John Carter yet again.  Eddie Murphy’s miserable The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within also proved as appealing as an encounter with a black hole.

5) No Johns

This might seem a little harsh, but naming your lead John almost guarantees box office failure.  The Lone Ranger’s alter ego is John Reid, John Carter is the eponymous hero of his very own space opera, and whilst Jack might be the Jack the Giant Slayer’s major player, we all know Jack originated as a  nickname for John.  And as for The Alamo, well no Johns but plenty of Juans.

Here endeth the lesson.

(Originally featured at on 08/08/13)

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