On a budget of $10M, “Gotti” didn’t have to do much to break even, but it somehow managed to flop so badly at the box office that it lost $7.5M the first weekend. Stories about crime lords and mob bosses generally do much better than this film did at the box office, but it could be that with “Gotti,” we’ve reached a supersaturation point. Maybe there are too many films like “Gotti” out there already; that would at least partially explain its failings this year.
“Gotti” is simply bad on all accounts, and the production agency knew about it from the start. That’s why it took MoviePass Ventures and Vertical Entertainment over a year to unleash the finished film, and that could also be why MoviePass bought 40% of the tickets sold on opening night—they knew it would fail, and they had to cover their asses somehow.
MoviePass even tried to cover their failings through Rotten Tomatoes. On that site, Gotti is one of few films to receive a 0% rating by critics, but there’s a huge discrepancy between that rating and the 80% ratings coming from the average viewer.
Ultimately, the controversy points back to MoviePass again covering their own asses because the accounts rating “Gotti” so well were almost all created the same month of the review, and the reviewers were almost all first-time reviewers who simply rated “Gotti” and no other films.
The popular theory is that MoviePass employees were forced to go on and rate their film well to offset the 0% rating. It sounds plausible, given “Gotti” and its numerous shortcomings. Overall, it seems like the film was a flop from its conception. It’s only a mystery as to why the production agencies tried so hard and so long to get it to work in the first place.
While some reviewers claim “Annihilation” as the best film of 2018 so far, the average viewer obviously can’t get into it, and its box office performance reflects that distance. At the box office for this film’s opening weekend, it grossed such a small amount that it actually lost $8M in comparison to its original budget of about $50M.
It’s interesting that “Annihilation” was directed and written by Alex Garland who made his debut as a director only three years ago (in 2015) with the film “Ex Machina,” which grossed over two times its own budget during its opening weekend. Given that success with his first film, Garland and his team surely feel the weight of failure of “Annihilation” in comparison.
Frustratingly, “Annihilation” portrays one of the best and clearest environmental messages that the big screen has seen in decades, but the thorny science fiction bent of the film might be what keeps so many viewers from really understanding or enjoying it. As for this film that all contemporary viewers should see, its complicated plot and confusing narrative structure leave much to be desired.
Reviewers rate “Annihilation” surprisingly well despite its box office flopping, so don’t give up on it quite yet. Give it a watch and see for yourself.
3. Action Point
In this rollercoaster ride of a comedy, rollercoasters are the focus, but it seems that the critics, reviewers, and viewers just couldn’t enjoy the ride. Whether it’s due to the heinous stunts portrayed in this “Jackass”-style film, the terrible acting, or the lack of artistry, “Action Point” completely flopped.
Losing a total of $14M opening weekend on a budget of $19M is one thing, but receiving reviews ranging from 0-40% even still is pretty telling. “Action Point” applies the brains of TV comedy director, Tim Kirby, but since this is his first film gig as a director, maybe we can explain away some of its failings on the switch from TV to film. Maybe we shouldn’t put all the weight on the director, though.
Johnny Knoxville, famed as a stuntman from “Jackass,” takes the lead role in this film, yet he stated he’d injured himself more during the filming of “Action Point” than he had in any other production he’d ever worked on. For someone like Knoxville to say that (when he’s actually gone so far doing stunts that he tore his urethra), it’s only up to the imagination what actually went on in the filming of “Action Point.” If viewers only knew what efforts the cast and crew went to, they might enjoy it more. On second thought, that probably still wouldn’t save “Action Point” from its fate.
2. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Reimagining the horrors of war through an animated dog’s perspective seems like a brilliant filmic decision. It could provide, as critics have said, “sensitivity and charm” to a complicated and violent context, but this same choice to use a voiceless, animated, animal protagonist could be what caused “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” to flop at the box office.
Despite its important messages and detailed historical knowledge, “Sgt. Stubby” only earned $3M against its $25M budget, making it one of the biggest flops on this list. It’s confusing how a film with such forethought, compassion, and intelligence could do so poorly financially until one considers the predominant view about war at the current global moment.
Americans in particular (and others, certainly) are tired of sensationalizing war. We’re engaged in wars off our own soil, yet the broiling political climate back home makes the threat of civil war grow larger than ever.
Furthermore, political strife worldwide makes the threat of nuclear war loom heavily, and you can be damned sure no one wants to feel the weight of that daily. By looking back at the intense moments of WWI with a dog protagonist, the makers of “Sgt. Stubby” were clearly trying to approach real world terrors in a new way, but it comes down to the fact that they may have been trying to communicate their messages at the wrong time.
1. The Hurricane Heist
As the worst box office bust of 2018, “The Hurricane Heist” comes in with a devastating $29M loss over its opening weekend. So many elements of the film make it seem like it could do well. Firstly, Rob Cohen—who participated in several successful action franchises (namely “The Fast and The Furious,” “xXx,” and “The Mummy”)—directs “The Hurricane Heist” as an established, noted, and successful director. Second, the film conceptually links an apocalyptic adventure with the thrill of a crime drama. And third, the production team had so much faith in the idea that they already started working on its sequel: “The Volcano Heist.”
With Cohen on board, the $29M loss is even more shocking because it demonstrates his literal worst financial failure as a director since the 1980s (early in his career). Still, it could be that the genre linkage of apocalypse with crime drama was too much of a stretch for most viewers, and there are further ideological links in the film that might be difficult for a (very divided) American viewership to relate with.
For example, the three main actors occasionally gather together in the storms to share moments of solidarity. They vocalize their shared love of football and gun rights, yet they’re quote-unquote Liberal enough to believe in climate change? Good luck convincing American viewers that any such people actually exist.
Overall, “The Hurricane Heist” is too scatterbrained and generally disliked to keep any audience focused for too long, which is a shame! Without this film, how would we know how to keep calm and carry on…with a huge heist during a natural disaster?! Honestly, Cohen, what were you thinking?