‘Raise the Titanic’ and other movies bankrupting their studios


Moviemaking is an extremely perceptive art that some have certainly mastered but no matter how skilled a team is assembled for making a movie, the film is always a gamble on its release.

The success and failure of a movie entirely depends upon whether the people like it or not. The result is that sometimes a serious action blockbuster becomes a joke or a major advancement in visual effects simply is not appreciated by the audience.

The tides can change at the drop of a hat and a sure thing turns out to be anything but. On the other hand, sometimes production companies are at fault for throwing millions of dollars at a venture that is good for nothing as would be borne out from the following.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever made, even seven decades after its release. It also earned five Oscar-nominations in 1947.

Despite all of this, it barely broke even when it was released in December 1946. The story is about a suicidal man who is shown an alternate reality where he does not exist.

Perhaps patrons skipped it, not anticipating the heartwarming Christmas classic it turned out to be. Liberty Films was a relatively new production company and the box office failure crushed them. They were forced to accept an acquisition offer from Paramount Pictures.

Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi was a visual triumph and won four Oscars for Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. Unfortunately it could not save Rhythm & Hues Studios from going under.

The company had laid off 254 employees and filed for bankruptcy after the film’s production. Although Life of Pi did extremely well at the box office, it was too late for the studio to reap the benefits.

One from the Heart (1981)

One from the Heart was an unexpected project from the director of The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola. It is a dreamy musical rom-com set in Las Vegas and fans of his previous work did not turn out. Coppola spent much of his $27 million budget on new visual techniques and a recreation of the Las Vegas airport. It only returned a dismal $638,000 at the box office. The movie was produced by Coppola’s own company and it never recovered from the loss. It went bankrupt in 1992.

Raise the Titanic (1980)

The 1980 film Raise the Titanic was an epic undertaking. The budget was US$40 million and most of that went towards recreating the historic vessel.

Unfortunately the public was not inspired by the Cold War saga and it only earned US$7 million at the box office. The studio ITC Entertainment was in crisis from the loss. They had to sell off the distribution arm of their company to avoid going completely bankrupt.

Hollywood big budget films that flopped badly!

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace has been called the worst superhero movie of all time. The special effects are embarrassing, even for 1987, and the villain is called “Nuclear Man.”

Cannon Films told lead actor Christopher Reeves that they had a budget of US$37 million but they actually had less than half of that at their disposal. Naturally the movie tanked and the company was left in terrible debt and facing bankruptcy. They sold out to Pathé in 1988.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

The Fall of the Roman Empire was a historical epic that rivaled ‘Cleopatra.’ Samuel Bronston Productions spent a small fortune building a set that recreated the Roman Forum. It was the biggest outdoor set ever built at the time. The Sophia Loren blockbuster only regained a quarter of its US$19 million budget. Within three months, Samuel Bronston Productions had filed for bankruptcy.

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