Box-Office Bombs: ‘Ben-Hur’ Looking at a $120 Million Loss

     September 8, 2016

Now that Labor Day weekend is behind us, we can well and truly consider the Summer 2016 Movie Season closed. While we normally keep track of the weekly box offices to keep an eye on how well movies are performing, we occasionally take a look at the underperforming features as well. It turns out that Timur Bekmambetov‘s take on Ben-Hur starring Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell will officially be this summer’s biggest bomb. That’s an impressive feat in and of itself considering that the movie opened less than a month ago, but its struggle to reach $75 million worldwide means that the MGM/Paramount pic is looking at a loss of around $120 million.

As THR reports, 80% of the $100 million budget for the remake and a sizable chunk of the marketing money was ponied up by MGM, so they’ll be the studio taking the main hit; Paramount’s losses will amount to a manageable $13 million. MGM recently downgraded its fiscal earnings forecast for the year due to the third-quarter write-down from Ben-Hur. They’re banking on another remake, that of Antoine Fuqua‘s The Magnificent Seven, which opens the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and then rolls into U.S. theaters starting September 23rd.


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Image via Warner Bros.

And yet things are not at all dire for MGM; the studio has a $200-million-plus earner in the summer release, Me Before You, a romantic drama starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. As Forbes points out, Hollywood could learn a lesson (but probably won’t) from this film’s $20 million budget and trio of female creatives–director Thea Sharrock, writer Jojo Moyes, and executive producer Sue Baden-Powell–which ended up helping to prop up the studio in spite of their traditional tentpole picture’s failure.

There are no “sure things” in this business, as even the mighty Walt Disney Pictures found out this summer. Steven Spielberg‘s family friendly film The BFG was quite the miss, bringing in $165.3 million in total, but costing $140 million to make. After factoring in marketing costs and other streams of both cost and revenue, the movie will lose an estimated $90 million-$100 million for Walt Disney, Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media.

Alice Through the Looking Glass also bombed, which is surprising considering that Alice in Wonderland was long a measuring stick for other blockbuster box office performances. Costing an estimated $170 million to make, the sequel maxed out at just over $295 million, meaning Disney is planning to lose at least $65 million. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine: the summer’s two top earners Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory also happen to be Walt Disney Productions.

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