Predicting The Biggest Box Office Bombs Of 2022
Making movies is the craziest business in the world. What other business regularly invests upwards of $200 million based not on a sophisticated business plan but on a Word document (i.e. a script)? When you think of it that way, is it any wonder movie studios are addicted to producing movies based on pre-existing intellectual property with a built-in audience? Or relying on complex data and audience research analyses? Sure, it may not be as romantic as the iconoclastic filmmaker making “art for art’s sake,” but in a multi-million dollar business, doing anything differently would be dumb. Still, even though movie studios do as much as possible to mitigate risks, bombs happen all the time.
Next year will be no different. In fact, 2022 may be the year the bottom (finally) falls out on pointless IP and legacy sequels that take place decades after the audience stopped caring. We’re not hoping any of these movies will bomb, but we’re confident they will seriously underperform at the least. Just so you know, we had a lot of fun with this list so there are some serious hot takes on here. Admittedly, we may be way off with our picks, but we think our logic is strong. Besides, that’s part of the fun. Do you think we’re on the money? Or are we crazier than Disney spending $250 million on “The Lone Ranger” and “John Carter?” Here are our predictions for the biggest box office bombs of 2022!
“Deep Water” is in deep you-know-what. (Poop. The answer’s poop.) Ben Affleck is not a movie star, he just plays one on screen. That is, if you define a movie star as “someone who can consistently and reliably put butts in seats.” Ben Affleck really can’t. His biggest hits feature Batman fighting Superman, Bruce Willis fighting a giant space rock, and Michael Bay fighting his editor in the ridiculously overlong “Pearl Harbor.” Everything else is hit or miss. Point being, if your movie’s primary selling point is “hey, Ben Affleck’s in it,” you may want to rethink your strategy. Disney (no stranger to producing live-action bombs that aren’t Marvel or “Star Wars”) already has rethought its strategy and that seems to be “release ‘Deep Water’ quietly in January and hope nobody notices.”
In the film, Affleck plays a wealthy husband hoping to stay far away from a pricey divorce by letting his wife (Ana De Armas) have affairs, but he becomes suspect number one when one of her paramours suddenly vanishes. Affleck may have smartened up and realized from the success of “Gone Girl” that his best bet is to be “the new Michael Douglas.” However, “Gone Girl” was released almost a decade ago when streaming options were limited, and it was based on a recent best-selling novel. Without those advantages, we suspect “Deep Water” will wind up deep in the red.
Betting against Marvel is like betting against the Harlem Globetrotters. However, just because Marvel boasts Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, that doesn’t mean the brand is invincible — especially when it’s not Marvel Studios but Sony’s Marvel-affiliated Spider-Man spinoff series. Confused? Probably not if you’re a Marvel fan, but if you’re like the rest of the human population, it’s hard to tell where Sony’s “Morbius” falls in the canon. We think it’s a spinoff of Tom Hardy’s “Venom” series, but who can tell? What we do know is that thanks to lots of delays and bad buzz, the anticipation for this movie is colder than its January release date, where Sony is sending it to die a quiet undeath.
You may be saying, “So what? People said the same thing about ‘Venom.'” True, but “Morbius'” star Jared Leto is not Tom Hardy, especially in the comic book genre. (Hardy was Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Leto was Joker in “Suicide Squad.”) Also, more importantly, Morbius is a D-list Spider-Man villain; Venom was the most popular villain of the 1990s. So why is this movie even happening? Just Sony being Sony. The same studio that gave us the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” also thought an Aunt May spinoff series was a good idea. “Morbius” may surprise, but we’re confident this vampire/supervillain monster mash will probably suck.
Video game movies are on an upswing, based on the recent successes of “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and “Mortal Kombat” (which we’re grading on a COVID curve). Is this a sign of a reversing trend for video game movies, one of the most critically maligned and commercially spurious of all movie genres? Maybe for mainstream legacy characters like Pikachu, Sonic, Liu Kang, and (time will tell) Mario. Not so much for Nathan Drake. Yes, he’s the main protagonist of “Uncharted,” one of the best-selling, most critically acclaimed video game series ever. Key phrase here — video game.
Gamers like playing games with Nathan Drake, they don’t necessarily like buying a ticket to watch Tom Holland play a young Nathan Drake. Yep, the “Uncharted” movie is a prequel to the video game, which is an odd choice, especially if you’re trying to draw in a mainstream audience unfamiliar with the character or franchise. Like, why not just make an “Uncharted” movie? Also, while Tom Holland is a draw as Spider-Man, everybody is a draw as Spider-Man. Outside the MCU, Holland hasn’t shown his mettle, and playing a square-jawed adventurer is a stretch for the charmingly befuddled young Brit, who’s better off being the heir apparent to Hugh Grant. Still, while we’re always up for an old-school adventure, we’ll probably be the only people in the theater.
The Lost City
“The Lost City of Z” was a best-selling book but a box office bomb, with $17 million worldwide on a $30 million budget. So naming your romantic comedy “The Lost City of D” seems misguided, a lot like when the 2009 bomb “All About Steve” referenced 1950’s “All About Eve,” a classic to be sure but all-but forgotten by anyone who’s not a film buff. And that’s probably why Paramount changed the name of their upcoming rom-com to just “The Lost City.” They’re also probably hoping that their star, Sandra Bullock — pretty much the most formidable box office draw today, especially in romantic comedies — can sell some serious tickets. But as the aforementioned “All About Steve” proved, while Bullock is formidable, she isn’t invincible.
As Deadline describes the plot, Bullock plays “a reclusive romance novelist … on a book tour with her cover model,” but our heroes soon find themselves “swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them in a cutthroat jungle adventure.” The cover model is played by Channing Tatum, another actor with romantic comedy bona fides, with Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe along for the ride. Sounds promising. So why are we thinking it’ll bomb? Maybe we’re wrong, but again, it’s that original title. Even if the studio scrapped it, “The Lost City of D” signals to us this movie will be short on clever comedy and heavy on cheap laughs. Some movies are critic-proof, but an original romantic comedy in 2022 probably isn’t. We imagine “The Lost City” could open strong based on Bullock’s star power alone but sink like a stone once negative word-of-mouth spreads.
DC League of Super-Pets
While Marvel Studios could release a movie about Doop (look him up) and it would still gross a billion dollars, DC’s cinematic output has been hit or miss. Meanwhile, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” underwhelmed at the box office in 2019. So when you mix the two, you get “DC League of Super-Pets,” scheduled for summer 2022. In the animated film, Superman goes on vacation, so protecting the planet is left to his dog Krypto, Ace the flying cat, and a league of super pets.
Krypto and Ace are respectively voiced by Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, stars of the rebooted “Jumanji” series and America’s favorite love/hate bromance, which is a definite mark in the plus column. They’re joined by a stacked voice cast, including Keanu Reeves, Kate McKinnon, and John Krasinski. There’s also the fact Warner Brothers’ “The LEGO Batman Movie” showed you can make a popular, family-friendly comedy spoofing their legacy DC characters.
Still, this feels like a charming HBO Max series, not a blockbuster movie families will shell out money for, at least enough to justify what we’re sure is a budget pushing $100 million. If it’s good, it may make money. If it’s so-so, Mom and Dad may opt to stream it instead.
Roland Emmerich’s schtick of “humans vs. world-ending disaster” used to be about as reliable as having Will Smith smack around aliens and crack one-liners. However, for more than a decade, the biggest disasters in Emmerich’s filmography haven’t been on the screen but at the box office. He hasn’t had a hit since 2009’s “2012,” which predicted the end of the world but actually foretold the end of his impressive run. In between ,there have been a few misbegotten attempts at small-scale films (“Anonymous,” “Stonewall”), peppered with massive bombs (“White House Down,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Midway”). Look for “Moonfall” to continue the downward trend.
As the title suggests, “Moonfall” is about the moon getting knocked out of its orbit and going on a collision course with Earth. It stars Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson, talented value-adds in “John Wick” and “Aquaman” movies but not reliable draws on their own. So with an eye-rolling concept and unreliable box office draws, “Moonfall” has a massive mountain to climb to earn a profit on its purported $150 million budget. Maybe China will save the day, but domestically, the only audience for “Moonfall” are dudes aged 18-34 who are watching it ironically. A prime demo, to be sure, but not enough to save “Moonfall” from crashing to Earth.
Puss in Boots 2: The Last Wish
Nearly 20 years after its original release, “Shrek 2” remains one of the 15 biggest animated worldwide hits ever and one of the top five of all time domestically. A big reason why was Antonio Banderas’ turn as the swashbuckling Spaniard cat, Puss in Boots. So popular was Puss in Boots that he even inspired his own spinoff, which was a big hit in 2011, grossing $149 million domestically and $554 million worldwide on a $130 million budget.
However, 11 years will have elapsed since the original “Puss in Boots,” and the magic number between sequels is between two and four years. Any shorter and you risk oversaturation. Any longer and you risk the audience moving on. The latter is particularly a risk with animated movies, as the original audience has literally grown up. Disney and Pixar are, of course, immune, proven by the fact that the biggest animated hits ever are “much later sequels” like “Frozen II,” “The Incredibles 2,” and the final two “Toy Story ” films. However, Disney/Pixar are movies that parents loved as kids and want to share with their families. We don’t think “Puss in Boots” has that sort of staying power, which is why we’re predicting the box office for “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” will stink worse than week-old kitty litter.
Top Gun: Maverick
Legacy sequels take place decades after the original, often featuring the original cast in “torch-passing roles.” Legacy sequels are different from sequels that have multi-year gaps, as the former acknowledges the passage of time while the latter is just another sequel. It’s the difference between “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (32 years after “Return of the Jedi”) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (30 years after “Beyond Thunderdome”). With that out of the way, “Top Gun: Maverick” clearly belongs in the legacy sequel camp and not just because it will be released 36 years after the original.
In “Top Gun: Maverick’s” defense, a little thing called COVID-19 happened and pushed the film’s original holiday 2020 release date two years to September 2022. In fact, “Top Gun: Maverick” has been moved around so much we feel like we’re sitting in the back of a F-16 fighter jet hitting Mach 2. Is that disadvantage made up by the combo of Tom Cruise and nostalgia? We doubt it.
Cruise’s four-decade movie star run is nearly unprecedented, but lately, he’s only reliable in the “Mission: Impossible” movies. Maverick is one of his most iconic characters, but “Top Gun” is memorable in a “it was on TBS in the afternoons” kinda way, not in a “my family watched it every year” kinda way. There’s a difference between genuine nostalgia (e.g. “Jurassic World”) and a sequel to a popular movie from another era (“Independence Day: Resurgence”). We just don’t think modern moviegoers still have the need … the need for speed.
Legally Blonde 3
Elle Woods first sashayed her way onto Harvard Law’s campus for 2001’s “Legally Blonde.” Fresh-faced Reese Witherspoon proved her budding box office bona fides, powering the $18 million film based on Amanda Brown’s book to a $20 million opening, on its way to $93 million domestically and $141 million worldwide. You don’t need a high-priced law degree to know profit margins like that are mighty impressive. Two years later, “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde” brought Elle Woods to Washington, D.C., and put $90 million domestically and $125 million into studio MGM’s pocket. On a $25 million budget, “Legally Blonde 2” was slightly less successful but not as alarming as losing your favorite hairdresser. Alas, there was no “Legally Blonde 3” … until 2022.
MGM famously had monetary woes in the aughts, which probably contributed to putting off the project, while Witherspoon’s movie star prowess got bigger than Woods’ five-inch pumps. Meanwhile, the “Legally Blonde” brand expanded beyond the multiplex to Broadway. So, nearly 20 years later, does the moviegoing audience still care about “Legally Blonde,” a franchise very much of its time? We don’t think so. While the plot is unknown, Elle Woods’ saga succeeded because it was the ultimate underdog story (and we’re not just talking about her chihuahua, Bruiser). We imagine this movie will rely purely on nostalgia, not on inspiring new audiences, which just won’t be enough.
Sherlock Holmes 3
Have we passed peak Sherlock Holmes? Maybe. Sir Arthur Conan’s world-famous sleuth first appeared in “A Study in Scarlet” in 1887, but as popular as the character has always been, right now, Holmes is as mainstream as he’s ever been. Credit BBC’s contemporary set “Sherlock” series, which brought Benedict Cumberbatch’s “high-functioning sociopath” Holmes to the small screen, and Warner Brothers’ “Sherlock Holmes” films, which turned Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes into a Victorian-era action hero on the big screen. The latter will most likely return in 2022 for a third film, with Downey once again (not) donning the deerstalker and Jude Law returning as Dr. John “Don’t Call Me Hot-son” Watson.
Both 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” and 2011’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” made a pretty penny, earning a total $395 million domestically and $1 billion worldwide on a combined budget of $215 million. We imagine Warner Brothers was begging for more sequels, but “The Avengers” broke records in 2012, and Downey was about to make another million Marvel movies (give or take). So here we are, more than a decade later. Moviegoers like Holmes and Watson (unless it’s Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly), but do they still care about this Holmes and Watson? The answer is elementary — no. The magic number between sequels is two to four years, and “Sherlock Holmes” doesn’t have the staying power of an all-time great franchise like “Star Wars” or “Toy Story.” This’ll fall harder than Sherlock off Reichenbach Falls.
This may be the Pandora of all hot takes. After all, “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time, with $2.8 billion worldwide. Based on pure math alone, even if “Avatar 2” dropped 50%, it would still be one of the highest-grossing movies ever with $1.4 billion. Heck, even if it dropped 75%, it’d still be flirting with $1 billion worldwide. Given China was still a small market when the first film was released in 2009 and is the main reason “Avatar” reclaimed its title from “Avengers: Endgame” in 2020, are we crazy for including it? Maybe. Yet unlike “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” or “The Matrix,” “Avatar” didn’t have staying power.
Sure, everybody saw it in 2009 … but only because we had to (and in higher-priced 3D tickets). How many kids dress up as Na’vi for Halloween? Where are the “Avatar” cartoons, video games, and toys? Put simply, who cares? Also, “Avatar 2” has been pushed back six times, will come out 13 years since the first (the magic number is four years between sequels that aren’t “Star Wars” or “Toy Story”), and costs $250 million (one-quarter of the $1 billion franchise’s total bill). While $1 billion sounds pretty good when we’re talking about multiple $2.5 billion+ films, “Avatar 2” — let alone “Avatar 3,” “4” and “5” — won’t make anywhere near that. Not that it needs to. “Avatar 2” may make money, but it’ll be a pale imitation of its predecessor and may pave the way for three box office disasters.
Under the Boardwalk
The “Romeo and Juliet” plot line has worked pretty well for the past 400 years, so why not try it out with crabs? Paramount Pictures is hoping the unlikely combination of Shakespeare meets crustaceans is the secret sauce to box office success (everyone knows butter and garlic is the sauce for crab, but we digress) in “Under the Boardwalk.” The animated film and jukebox musical is about a local land crab who falls shell over heels for an out-of-town sea crab. Naturally, this star-crossed romance leads to a feud between the land-faring and sea-dwelling crustaceans.
However, the lovers’ crabby friends and family are forced to work together when the two are lost at sea after a storm. So, is it “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Tempest?” Or are we overthinking this? Probably. In which case we’ve definitely thought more about this animated “comedy” destined to be a box office dud than Paramount did when they greenlit “Under the Boardwalk” and scheduled it for a competitive summer release. “Under the Boardwalk” has about as much chance of finding an audience as you do finding fresh crab straight from the ocean in Kansas.