This hasn’t been the best year for Disney’s bank balance. They’re yet to see a big return on their $4.05 billion Star Wars investment, they’re putting a lot of money into Thor 2 and Captain America 2 and won’t see a return on them until next year, and of course, they’ve lost a considerable amount of money and dignity on the latest high profile cinematic flop: an adaptation of The Lone Ranger.
The film’s overall budget (including marketing) is estimated at $350 million and its box office returns so far have been pitiful for such an expensive film, with business experts predicting that it will end up making a loss of up to $190 million.
So on the one month anniversary of its release, let’s take a look at the reasons for this financial black hole…
4. Westerns Are Not Particularly Profitable
I’ll probably get trampled by horses ridden by John Wayne fans for saying this but: Western films have lost a lot of their cultural value in recent years. It’s no longer a popular genre and has been largely overtaken in the past few decades by fantasy and science-fiction. And because of the genre’s fading popularity and low financial potential, a Western film is not an especially safe bet. You’ll get a few successes like True Grit or Django Unchained but their success will usually be caused at least in part by other factors like Django Unchained being directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Disney already got their fingers burnt on releasing a Western in the summer of 2011 with Cowboys & Aliens, a Western and sci-fi hybrid starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. It was released opposite The Smurfs (which is a film that should never be spoken of again) and completely tanked with a US gross of $100 million on a $160 million budget.
The failure of Cowboys & Aliens actually influenced Disney to hold back on The Lone Ranger (which was close to entering production at that point) but obviously that wise but short-lived decision was reversed and Disney set themselves up for a fall by having an even more expensive stab at reviving the Western.
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