This past weekend, Furious 7 opened to a gigantic box office reception, roping in a stunning $391 million worldwide in its debut weekend, according to CNN Money. By now, this isn’t the biggest surprise; the Fast & Furious series has been explosively popular for a long time now. But when you think back to how ordinary and unassuming The Fast And The Furious was when it first came out, these numbers do cast light on how unpredictable the box office can be sometimes. When a young pairing of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker first got behind the wheels in a street racing action flick, no one could have imagined the franchise would one day span seven films and have opening weekends in the hundreds of millions.
And that’s because most new projects don’t enjoy that type of success. In fact, many movies that spend way more money and display far more ambition than The Fast And The Furious become forgotten flops in the span of just a few months. So to put the success of Furious 7 in perspective—and really, just for fun—take a look back at some of 2014’s most monumental box office flops.
Transcendence had some decent hype before it hit the theaters. It was a Johnny Depp movie about a human being morphing his consciousness with a futuristic A.I. in a joint effort to preserve his life and further his technological research. Even better, it was the first big screen directing effort for Wally Pfister, who’s best known as Christopher Nolan’s favorite cinematographer. Check out the guy’s IMDB page and you’ll see he had a hand in the awesome visual quality of just about every one of Nolan’s hits.
Unfortunately, Pfister couldn’t work Nolan-esque magic with this convoluted script. Transcendence had some interesting ideas, but utterly lost itself along the way—and the box office numbers showed that viewers didn’t respond well. According to Box Office Mojo, the film wound up making just about a $3 million profit on its $100 million budget. $3 million sounds nice, but in movie talk it’s a disappointing handful of pennies.
Pompeii was a pretty interesting project for a number of reasons. To begin with, its trailers made it look more or less like a Gladiator sequel, even though that’s not at all what it was. There’s also the fact that its cast included the wildly popular Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game Of Thrones) and the irresistibly strange idea of Kiefer Sutherland playing a Roman senator. And perhaps even stranger, 2014 seemed to be the year of Pompeii in pop culture. Bastille’s hit pop song by the same name was one of the most popular songs of the year, and a popular slot machine game described by Intercasino as “the epitome of entertainment” gained popularity across the Internet. The song talks metaphorically about a city crumbling in disaster, and the slot arcade uses an ominous image of Mount Vesuvius as its wild tab. In short, it felt like the stage was set for the
movie. Pompeii was oddly present throughout 2014.
Unfortunately, it was an unequivocally horrible film. Sutherland turned in one of the most forced performances in recent history, and Harrington, while serviceable, couldn’t do a whole lot with a script filled with clichés. Referring again to Box Office Mojo, Pompeii somehow managed a $17 million profit on its $100 million budget, though its $10 million opening weekend was a gigantic disappointment.
Finally, there’s the flop of all flops, and though it looked pretty cheesy from the get-go, it’s pretty surprising how poorly Winter’s Tale performed given its foundation. The movie was based on a book by Mark Helprin that received generally favorable reviews, including a glowing write-up in the New York Times that concluded, “Winter’s Tale is a great gift at an hour of great need.” Meanwhile, the movie had something of an all-star cast including Oscar winner Russell Crowe, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay, and Colin Farrell. Again, it looked a little sappy, but it also seemed primed for at least moderate success.
It wound up being one of the biggest cinematic disappointments of 2014, and was utterly forgotten about a week after its release. A $60 million production budget netted only a $30 million worldwide gross, meaning the film lost some pretty serious money for the studios. Critics almost universally slammed it, and now it has the dubious distinction of being recognized only as a serious flop.
Now doesn’t that just make you appreciate what’s happened with the Fast & Furious franchise all the more?