In honor of Thanksgiving, I prepared a double feature of Brendan Fraser turkeys. Opening the twin bill at 6A, Dudley Do-Right (1999) failed despite seemingly having the ingredients to succeed. Of note, the movie followed the formula of Fraser’s prior hit George of the Jungle (1997). Specifically, the actor went back to the well by portraying a likable doofus in a live-action adaptation of a 1960s cartoon. Furthermore, the film had an accomplished writer/director. Serving both roles, Hugh Wilson had an impressive track record which included the classic TV show WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82) and hit movie Police Academy (1984). Even with a marketable star, a talented creative influence, and a sizable production budget of $75 million, Dudley Do-Right flopped with only $10 million at the box office. I have my own theory about why the film became a Top 10 Bust, but you’ll have to read this to find out.
Supernova (2000) seemingly had the ingredients to become a hit movie. First, it starred the incredibly talented James Spader and Angela Bassett. Second, it had state-of-the-art visual effects. Unfortunately, the film suffered because the studio failed to control the creative process. In particular, it endured numerous rewrites and leadership changes while stuck in production for eight years. Despite a budget of over $90 million, it earned less than $15 million at the box office. As a horrendously produced film with a financial loss of over $80 million, Supernova earned the distinction of #7 Box Office Bust.
Like many other failures, The Alamo (2009) had numerous problems throughout production. The replacement of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe didn’t help. Missing its anticipated release date didn’t help. Replacement director John Lee Hancock’s inexperience making a big-budget movie didn’t help. Regardless, the movie’s biggest problem related to its actual content. While lauded for its historical accuracy, the movie failed to be entertaining. After a weak opening, the film absolutely cratered due to negative word of mouth. With a budget of almost $110 million and worldwide ticket sales of only $25 million, The Alamo has been named the #8 Box Office Bust.
Due to the tremendous success of Die Hard (1988), Bruce Willis was given an opportunity to star in a movie based on a character he helped create while still a struggling actor in his twenties. That character was the inspiration behind the action adventure spoof Hudson Hawk (1991). Given the film’s budget of $70 million, fans expected a traditional Bruce Willis action adventure movie, but were forced to sit through a poorly written (and acted) spoof. With only $17 million in gross ticket sales, the movie ended up losing over $60 million for the studio. In addition to suffering financially, the movie suffered critically and won three Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. Given its failure despite the resources dedicated to it, the movie has earned the #9 spot as a Top 10 Box Office Bust.
Headlined by A-List actors Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, Ishtar (1987) failed to deliver at the box office. Even though the movie opened at #1 with over $4 million in domestic ticket sales, it faded quickly and finished with only $14 million. Due to production problems caused by an inexperienced director filming in the middle of the Sahara Desert, the movie suffered tremendous cost overruns and lost Columbia Pictures over $40 million. With an inflation-adjusted loss exceeding $90 million, the movie is often regarded as one of the biggest flops in history. At the same time, it had so much potential given the critical and commercial success of its stars and production team. Arguably, its failure even led to Coca-Cola Company’s decision to get out of the entertainment business by selling Columbia four months after the movie’s release.