The Hollywood Reporter is claiming that Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger is shaping up to be the biggest financial black hole for Disney since, well, since last summer’s flop, John Carter. In a sane world, the all-important opening weekend figure of $48.9 million would be considered a serious amount of wedge, but fell short of the $60 million forecast. Industry analysts are predicting that losses could amount to anything from $150 to $190 million.
Taking into account that the movie was such a hard sell (Westerns generally don’t play well outside the US, and they certainly don’t appeal to the under 18s), I would consider the takings to be pretty decent. If Disney was expecting more, they were being unrealistic. The production budget for The Lone Ranger yo-yoed from $215 to $250 million, thanks to shooting going severely over schedule, and other silly stuff like Verbinski’s insistence on building period-accurate locomotives from scratch.
But what really jumps out of this article filled with figures is Disney’s marketing budget of $175 million. Let me say that once more… $175 MILLION. ON MARKETING.
If a movie doesn’t make its money during the opening weekend, it’s dead in the water. To ensure that studios get every arse onto every spare seat during this miniscule timeframe, sums like $175 million are hurled into advertising. When it comes to money, marketing departments are like crack addicts – too much is never enough. But when a movie is considered a bomb because losses amount to the exact figure you’ve just poured into marketing it, what effect has marketing had? If Disney hadn’t spent one nickel on marketing The Lone Ranger, would we still know it existed? Of course we would. Would the opening figures be radically different? I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t.