If you’re like me, you’re fascinated not only with movies but with the box office. It’s fun to see surprise hits (“Get Out”), Cinderella stories (“Parasite”) and record-breakers (“Avengers: Endgame”), but for me it is far more interesting to dissect when things go wrong. Not that I wish harm on any film, making movies is hard and at the end of the day it is a business, but sometimes a film is given such a ludicrous budget for its cast, genre or release date that it just has to be talked about and/or criticized.
Here I will keep a running list of the biggest box office bombs of 2020. There are sure to be a handful, as with every year, and as Ari Gold once let us know, most movies actually end up losing money. However, there are times when a bomb cannot be ignored and loses the studio millions of dollars. Check back here throughout the year to see what films left the biggest red ink stain from 2020, in order of release date. Sometimes actual losses aren’t reported, but I’ll still include films on this list if both the production and marketing budgets are made known.
Dolittle (January 17)
Production Budget: $175 million
P&A Budget: N/A
Opening Weekend: $22 million
Worldwide Gross: $182 million*
Estimated Losses: $50–100 million
This film saw its production budget balloon following extensive three week reshoots due to poor test screenings, but it was going to bomb regardless. Universal knew it had a dud on its hands for a while now, not only dumping it in January (a well-known cinematic graveyard for most genres) but at a time when most all young kids had gone back to school. Poor start to Robert Downey Jr’s post-MCU career, although he made $20 million for the role, so surely he’s not too upset.
The Rhythm Section (January 31)
Production Budget: $50 million
P&A Budget: $20–25 million
Opening Weekend: $2.9 million
Worldwide Gross: $5.8 million*
Estimated Losses: $30–40 million
Long delays in production (Blake Lively broke her wrist while filming which shut down work for six months) doomed this from the start, and like “Dolittle” it is clear the studio knew it had a dud on its hands by dumping it in January on Super Bowl weekend (a notoriously slow film-going frame); in fact, this set the record for worst opening weekend of all-time . We’ve seen female-led spy films turn out decent numbers with the likes of “Atomic Blonde” (July) and “Red Sparrow” (March), although both those films had better reviews than this (~65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 27% here).