It’s no secret that Disney’s latest would-be blockbuster “The Lone Ranger” flopped at the box office. But exactly how hard did the “The Lone Ranger” bomb?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney (NYSE:DIS) stands to lose at least $150 million over the failed western. Over its five-day opening period, “The Lone Ranger” managed to earn only $48.9 million at the domestic box office, a pitiful result considering its $250 million production budget. By contrast, the animated “Despicable Me 2” managed to bring in $153.6 million over the same period. As for “The Lone Ranger,” the Hollywood Reporter estimates that it won’t earn any higher than $125 million at the domestic box office. With foreign markets taken into account, “The Lone Ranger” might earn as much as $275 million. That’s a lot of money, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not. While the movie might, with luck, earn $25 million more than its filming budget, there’s also advertising to take into account. Unfortunately for Disney, the entertainment giant spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million promoting “The Lone Ranger.” When you add everything together, that comes up to a loss of a colossal $150 million. Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution, told the Hollywood Reporter that the film’s dismal debut was disappointing, to say the least. “Everything was perfect on paper, so today was incredibly frustrating,” he told the trade paper.
Unfortunately for Disney, “The Lone Ranger” is hardly the studio’s only recent box office disaster. In 2012, Disney released “John Carter,” a high-profile big-budget reboot of a figure from even earlier in the 20th century, this time based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars.” The would-be space epic was filmed on a budget of $250 million, but got only $184 million in ticket sales worldwide. According to projections from Reuters, when you take into account marketing and other overhead costs, Disney lost more than $200 million on the project.
At a certain point, one has to wonder who is greenlighting these projects at Disney. Certainly, the Lone Ranger and Burroughs’ pulp novels were wildly popular in the early days of the 20th century, but it’s been decades since the characters were truly relevant. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that American filmgoers aren’t too excited about lining up to watch movies based on their grandparents’ (or in John Carter’s case, great-grandparents’) favorite action heroes. It certainly shouldn't be surprising that projects rebooting long-forgotten properties are a huge gamble. So why does Disney keep making them?
Fortunately for Disney, however, the company should be able to weather the box office setbacks of “The Lone Ranger” and “John Carter.” This summer alone, Disney released the monster hits “Iron Man 3” and “Monsters University,” essentially allowing the studio to subsidize underperforming flicks like “The Lone Ranger” with its more popular blockbusters.
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t accountants at Disney kicking themselves over such a big financial loss right now.