Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ghostbusters: The Variable Definition of 'Flop'

Image result for ghostbustersWith a production budget of $144 million, and a marketing budget of $100 million, the financial backers of the Ghostbustettes movie are on the hook for almost a quarter of a billion dollars.  That kind of heavy budget is used for tentpole movies - the big summer guaranteed moneymakers that keep a studio's finances in the black and produce enough profit to support the production of the studio's smaller movies.  Those smaller movies are low cost bets with the potential for higher returns.  Movies like Ghostbusters, which cost $30 million and made $230 million at the box office.

These days tentpole movies that just barely make back their budget are considered failures in that, while the studio didn't lose money on them, they didn't turn enough profit to pay for other productions.  Some examples of money-making 'flops' that you may remember are Green Lantern (which made $20 million against a $200 million budget), John Carter ($34 million on a $250 million budget), and Lone Ranger ($45 million at a cost of $215 million).  These movies were all widely panned as failures, but unlike Ghostbusterinas, they didn't carry with them the protective armor as defender of the Narrative.

The projected opening weekend box office for Ghostbusters: the 2016ing is around $50 million, which bodes well for the movie as the projected final take of a movie is generally around four times that of the opening weekend.  Good movies tend to outperform that 4x metric, and bad one underperform.  If this movie is at least average, it's looking at making around $50 million off of a $150 million production budget, which should push it just barely past the ranks of money-making flops like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Where it gets really interesting is that Hollywood is an industry that thrives on perception, and whether a movie is considered successful or not depends in large part on how well it does against expectations.  Most of those lucrative flops failed to meet their expectations.  The controversy surrounding the all-girl Ghostbusters makes it hard to identify what its expectations really were.  The massive YouTube backlash indicated that the public hated the movie, and this might be a sign of low expectations for the movie. 

The secular moral crusaders had high hopes for the movie, sure, but we're talking about cold hard numbers here - the bean counters likely read the YouTube comment tea leaves and adjusted their expectations downwards accordingly.  The constant (and justified) attacks on this soft reboot movie might actually have helped push it from 'should have made more, what a mistake' to 'I told you the world was ready for an all-girl blockbuster'.  It didn't actually bust any blocks, but it just doesn't have to.

How appropriate that the female version of a movie doesn't have to succeed based on cold hard rationality, but skates into success because it 'feels' successful.

1 comment:

  1. They really asked for it with this one. What the industry fails to realize is that most audiences want to be entertained, not preached to.

    Plenty of people were neutral about the all-women cast, but thought the movies itself looked questionable. Then they were told they were sexist. Insulting your potential customers is not a great marketing tactic.

    Then the pro-Hillary Twitter slip-up. (

    "Republicans buy sneakers too." Except it's not just Republicans who can't stand Hillary. Way to tie another albatross around your movie's neck, guys.

    Long story short they got what they deserved.