It was a pretty good year for Universal Pictures, with some of the highest profits in its history. But "47 Ronin" could end up being a major blemish on that record.
The action-adventure flick stars Keanu Reeves who leads a band of outcast samurai. But it had a rough Christmas day opening, taking in only $10.7 million in its first two days domestically — not to mention an equally-troubled start in Japan earlier this month. Some are already dubbing it a box office flop. (Via Universal Pictures / "47 Ronin", KSHB)
It hit the $20 million mark this weekend, but that only makes up for the movie's marketing budget. That leaves its $175 million production cost still on the table, likely making it the year's second-biggest miss financially, just behind Disney’s "The Lone Ranger," which cost that company $190 million. (Via Walt Disney Studios / "The Lone Ranger")
"47 Ronin" is on course to gross only around $65 million in the U.S. For some comparison, "Despicable Me 2" brought in more than $367 million. Industry analysts say Universal will likely need to make $500 million globally on this latest film if it wants to break even.
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal was expecting this and has made preparations. It wrote down the potential costs over the last year, which it’s allowed to do after a movie is completed.
In a statement, the studio said, "Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment. In the case of 47 Ronin, we adjusted film costs in previous quarters."
But a writer for The Wrap points out we still don’t know what this will do to the studio’s bottom line. "Saying you took a write-down on a film without saying how large a write-down is a little like saying there was a major earthquake without revealing its magnitude."
Not to mention this film had its share of problems before it even hit the box office. Its release date was pushed back twice—first from fall 2012 to last February and then again to this Christmas.
A writer for Forbes argues any money this movie is making is all due to Reeves. “He pulled off a $20 million debut for a film that had nothing going for it. No stars, no buzz, limited advertising, poor reviews a famously troubled production history, and yet it opened with $20m.”
It's not all bad news for Universal. It can thank "Despicable Me 2" and "Fast & Furious 6" for making 2013 one of the studio's most profitable years on record.