Guest Post – Forgotten Box Office Misfires Part II

Ok, here’s the last part of the forgotten big-budgeted misfires. Just to reiterate, these were the films that had a huge budget for its time and their failure went so far as to bankrupt the studio that marketed them, and some even ruined the filmmakers’ career:

5. Cutthroat Island (1995): I think more people know about the other box office misfire from this year, Waterworld, than this movie. For sure Waterworld was huge box office bomb but at least it didn’t bankrupt the studio, but Cutthroat Island did. The studio behind the film was Carolco Pictures. They used to churn out a lot of big films in the mid-80s and early 90s, including Rambo 2 & 3, Terminator 2, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Cliffhanger. By the mid-90s they were running out of money and decided to put all of their chips on this film. It’s listed on the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time. Ge this, it cost the studio about $115 mil to make and it only earned back around $10 mil, ouch!

They should have pulled plug on this film from the beginning. Michael Douglas was attached to be the leading man, but decided to drop out a couple of months before the cameras started rolling. Then they went on a panic mode to look for his replacement, offering the lead role to pretty much all of the A-list actors around that time, but none of them took it. So finally they offered the role to Mathew Modine, who’s never starred in any big-budgeted films nor was he an A-list actor. Because director Renny Harlin was so busy trying to find a new male lead, he didn’t look over the script or set designs, so when he was finally ready to shoot the film, he didn’t like both the script and the set pieces.

Matthew Modine & Geena Davis on the set

The project underwent a script-rewrite and the sets also had to be rebuilt, which ballooned up the production budget and caused the film to be behind schedule. It was scheduled to open in the Summer of 1995 but didn’t make it to theaters until that December. Carolco Pictures filed for bankruptcy six weeks before the film open, so they didn’t have any money to market the film. The film was released by MGM Studios and it opened with a paltry $2 mil in one weekend.

As for Renny Harlin, a year later he came out with another big-budgeted film The Long Kiss Goodnight, which also starred his then-wife Geena Davis, and again, it failed at the box office. In 1999 and 2001 he made Deep Blue Sea and Driven, both had huge budget but again neither of them made a dent at the box office. His last few films were either small-budget or straight-to-DVD fares. Geena Davis’ career didn’t pan out well either, the last time I saw her was on a TV show where she played the President of the US, forgot the name of it.

6. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997): Keanu Reeves was smart enough to drop out of the Speed sequel a couple of months before the cameras started rolling. Unfortunately for Sandra Bullock, she was stuck because she said she was obligated to do the film because director Jan De Bont made her into a big star by casting her in the first film, so this was her way to to pay him back.

The film’s budget was around $160 mil and it only made around $48 mil back. The film didn’t ruin Bullock’s career but she was sort of in a slump after this film came out. Jan De Bont on the other hand, hasn’t had a big box office hit since 1996’s Twister. He was set to direct a lot of big action pictures after Speed 2, one was about a group of secret agents hunting down the world’s most ruthless terrorists and he was offered a chance to direct the American remake of Godzilla. Of course he never got to make those films because Speed 2 was such a huge failure that the studios didn’t want him to be in charge of their tent-pole pictures.

7. Town & Country (2001): I bet not many of you remember this film right? Well don’t worry, it’s not worth remembering. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. The film cost around $105 mil to make and earned about $10 mil back. The production started in 1998 but the film didn’t come out till 2001. The reason it took so long to finish was because Warren Beatty demanded to do a lot of takes and the screenplay be rewritten while they were shooting the film. I believe this was the last time Warren Beatty appeared on the big screen, there were rumors that Tarantino offered him the role of Bill in Kill Bill but he didn’t want to make another film again after the experience he had making this film.

8. Rollerball (2002): This remake of 1975 Norman Jewison’s film was so bad that I can’t even recommend it to my worst enemies. Its budget was round $70 to $90 mil and made back around $18 mil. What’s so unbelievable was that the film was directed by John McTiernan, the man who made three of my favorite action films, Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. I don’t know what went wrong during the production of this film but wow, I just couldn’t believe it was made by the same person!

Back in 1999, McTiernan remade another of Norman Jewison’s film The Thomas Crown Affair, which was a good movie and it made some money at the box office. So I presumed MGM figured ‘hey, why not give him a lot of money to do another remake and we can make more money from it.’ Well of course it didn’t turn out that way. First, Keanu Reeves dropped out before the film started shooting (I’m starting to think Keanu is a lot smarter than he looks since he dropped out of two of the biggest box office bombs in history.) Then they cast a Keanu look alike, Chris Klein, to replace him. Klein’s got to be the worst actor I’ve ever seen.

The film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2001 but because of negative word of mouth after early screenings, the studio finally dumped it in February of 2002. The studio knew that they had a stinker in their hands, so in order to spread some good word of mouth to the movie geeks out there, they contacted Harry Knowles, the owner of a very popular movie website and flew him in a private jet for a private screening with director John McTiernan with the hope that he would give the film a good review and convince his readers to go see it. Well, after Knowles saw the film, he published a review of it by tearing it to pieces.

After the film came out, John McTiernan got into some legal troubles and I believe he’s currently serving time in prison. Chris Klein disappeared from the face of the earth; apparently he’ll reprise his role in another American Pie sequel. I’m sure he’s a got a lot of time on his hands now since never became the movie star the studio hope he would be.

Sources:,, and

Well those are some of the not-so-well-known box office failures, let’s hope Hollywood studios will learn from their past failures and invest wisely in future films. Wait a minute, what I’m I smoking? Studios released crappy films with huge budget yearly, some made money and some didn’t. Ridley Scott said in an interview last year that studio presidents told him they don’t even read scripts, they just listened to their executives and would green light any script with potentials to make them a lot of money. No surprise there right?

Any thoughts about any of these films? Which of these films happen to be your favorite?

21 thoughts on “Guest Post – Forgotten Box Office Misfires Part II

  1. Omg! That was SUCH a great post. I find it utterly hilarious how these films got green lit by studios. Obviously someone pulled some strings to get their stuff made.

    1. This is probably just a tiny sampling of other craps getting green lit out there that actually made money… which of course only encourages Hollywood even more (not that they need more of that to churn out bad stuff, ahah)

  2. Rollerball (the remake) and Speed 2 are probably in my top 10 (or should that be bottom 10) films I hate!

    HAHA Great second part to the post Ted.

    When you gonna come back to FRC? we miss you 🙂


    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Custard, I really hated Rollerball but for a while I enjoyed Speed 2 but I don’t think I can sit through it now.

      You know I don’t really have a topic to write about for your site, but I’ll come up with something for Tech Tuesday. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

  3. Hi, Ted and company:


    What a Rogue’s Gallery of films that stink on ice! The rancid residue of unchecked egos, poor decisions and open checkbooks.

    Cannot think of any good reason for ‘Cutthroat Island’, ‘Town & Country’ and/or ‘Rollerball’ to have been cleared for launch and later made. At least ‘Speed 2: Cruise Control’ had the word ‘Speed’ in it, but a yacht isn’t a bus. There were no overpasses or bridges to jump. Only sharks.

    Great topic and thread so far, Ted. Cannot wait for the next installment.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Jack, I totally agree as to why Cuthroat Island, Town & Country and Rollerball ever got a green light from studio big bosses. You’re right about Speed 2, the first one was a hit so why not try to build a franchise from it. Unfortunately, Jan De Bont was not a good director and he ruined the franchise before it got started.

  4. I must have been living under a rock as I wasn’t aware that McTiernan was serving time in jail. These are some of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It just goes to show that big budgets mean nothing if the creative team isn’t right, the script isn’t up to scratch, etc.

    1. Ted S.

      What’s so disappointing to me was that McTiernan used to be one of my favorite action directors but his career just went down the toilet after Die Hard 3.

  5. Great two-parter. It is funny to see movies that the studios obviously thought would work … but did not.

    Fun fact – there was a unfounded rumor that floated around my high school that Matthew Modine dated one of my Spanish language teachers. Just thought I would throw that out there 😉

    1. Ted S.


      Wow Matt Modine dated your Spanish teacher huh? I haven’t seen him in anything for a long time. That’s funny.

  6. Speed 2 was an absolutely atrocious movie. I had so many brain synapses explode that I was shaking uncontrollably (or maybe I was just angry). Have never heard of the others but I guess that’s why they are forgotten.

    1. Ted S.

      LOL, yeah Speed 2 was awful, I remember liking it when I first saw it but I know I can’t sit through it now. Don’t worry if you don’t know about the other films, they’re not worth your time, trust me. 🙂

  7. more interesting info, thanks Ted. It’s amazing the amounts of money we are talking about here, tens of millions of money gone.

    The only one i’ve seen is Rollerball, on account of LL Cool J was in it. But i don’t remember much about it…which i guess is a good thing.

    (re: Chris Klein…haven’t those American Pie movies ran their course by now? There’s like 6 of them, isn’t there?)

    I remember when Keanu Reeves turned down Speed 2, everyone was like, how stupid, he’s committing career suicide, etc. etc. Now he looks like a genius 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I remember when LL Cool J signed up to be in the Rollerball remake, he was on MTV saying it’s going to be a huge summer movie and Keanu Reeves was going to be in it and so on. Of course it didn’t turn out that way.

      The last American Pie movie I saw was the wedding one, the 4th one I think. I know there are 2 or 3 of them that went straight to video. Apparently they’re making the official last one with all the original cast from the first film. No surprise there since none of them had a big career after the first film came out.

      Yeah I’m starting to think Reeves a very smart man, his career might have turned out differently had he decided to do Speed 2.

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