Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsCleopatra

HOLLYWOOD NOW | THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE
BIZARRE: GROSS RECIPTS | SO SOCAL

OK, "Titanic' Didn't Sink. These Did

March 22, 1998|Susan King

"Intolerance" (1916) budget: about $2.5 million domestic gross: not available D.W. Griffith's landmark 1915 "Birth of a Nation" had audiences lining up to pay an unheard-of $2. That wasn't the case with "Intolerance." Two years in the making, with 45 stars and 10,000 extras, the film, into which Griffith had sunk $386,000, was released just as America entered World War I, and its pacifist theme left audiences cold. Griffith spent the rest of his career paying off creditors with the proceeds of subsequent films.

*

"Greed" (1925) budget: about $4 million domestic gross: N/A. Director Erich von Stroheim had a reputation as an extravagant genius. (For 1922's "Foolish Wives" he demanded the studio build a life-size replica of Monte Carlo.) "Greed," Von Stroheim's first production at MGM, was based on Frank Norris' harrowing novel "McTeague." Von Stroheim decided to film a literal translation of the book, page by page. The first cut ran 42 reels, or about seven hours. Then he cut it down to 21 reels but refused to edit any more. Director Rex Ingram cut it down to 18 reels. MGM hacked it down to 10, whereupon it was released to mixed notices. Louis B. Mayer supposedly melted down the original silver nitrate print. Von Stroheim wound up playing Gloria Swanson's butler in "Sunset Boulevard," in 1950.

*

Cleopatra (1963) budget: about $40 million domestic gross: about $26 million. When adjusted for inflation, "Cleopatra" probably cost more to make than "Titanic." It nearly destroyed 20th Century Fox, closed the door on big-budget historical epics and slowed the career of director Joseph Mankiewicz. The film's original director, Rouben Mamoulian, never made another movie. After $6 million had been spent, there was only 11 minutes of usable film. Elizabeth Taylor, who was paid $1 million to star, became gravely ill and had an emergency tracheotomy. After she recovered, co-stars Peter Finch and Stephen Boyd were replaced with Rex Harrison and Richard Burton. Shooting shifted from England to Rome, where new sets were built and Taylor and Burton began their headline-making affair. Mankiewicz wrote the movie as it was being shot and ended up with 120 miles of film. Fox contemplated releasing two films. The studio launched "Cleopatra" at 243 minutes and then cut it to 222 minutes, but the cost was never recouped.

*

"Heaven's Gate" (1980) budget: $36-$50 million domestic gross: $3 million. Director Michael Cimino became the poster boy for wasteful spending with this misbegotten Western, which lost more than $34 million. Fresh from his Oscar-winning success with "The Deer Hunter," Cimino was given carte blanche to bring his vision of the West to the screen. After 10 days of shooting, Cimino was already 12 days behind schedule. Though the film was budgeted at $7.5 million, Cimino rebuilt trains to match the style of the 1890s and planted miles of sod in an area that he intended to blow up later for battle scenes. The film was quickly pulled when it opened in the fall of 1980. A shortened version died a quick death in the spring of 1981.

*

"Ishtar" (1987) budget: $50-$55 million domestic gross: $12.7 million. This slight buddy comedy starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman was supposed to capture the spirit of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope "Road" pictures. Beatty and Hoffman reportedly were each paid $5.5 million. Eight weeks shooting in Morocco and director Elaine May's improvisational approach swallowed time and money. After the dismal box office, plans were scrapped to release the soundtrack album, with Hoffman and Beatty singing such songs as "Little Darlin.' " May hasn't directed a movie since.

*

"Hudson Hawk" (1991) budget: $54 million domestic gross: $17.2 million. Some estimates put the total cost of this disaster, a pet project of its star, Bruce Willis, at $75 million. Produced by Joel Silver, it was shot in London, Budapest (delayed by a general strike), Rome (the Vatican refused permission to photograph) and New York (the Brooklyn Bridge was rented for a week for a sequence that lasted less than a minute on screen). Director Michael Lehmann didn't make another film until the 1994 dud "Airheads."

*

"Cutthroat Island" (1995) budget: $100 million domestic gross: $9.9 million Kevin Costner's $175-million opus "Waterworld" garnered most of the bad press in 1995, but this turgid female pirate adventure starring Geena Davis and directed by husband Renny Harlin actually performed far worse at the box office. Budgeted at $65 million, the movie shot on location for 100 days in Malta and Thailand using lavish sets and props and costumes made from scratch. Some $3 million was spent on script rewrites alone. Davis and Harlin made one more film together, "The Long Kiss Goodnight," which also did disappointing business. The couple divorced last year.

*

"The Postman" (1997) budget: about $80-$100 million domestic gross: $18 million (and counting) "Mr. Magoo" outperformed Kevin Costner's three-hour futuristic epic last Christmas. In fact, "Postman," the first film Costner directed since the Oscar-winning "Dances with Wolves," barely cracked the top 10 its first weekend. Perhaps Warner Bros. gave Costner too free a rein to make the film he wanted. Maybe audiences were turned off by the poster, which made the sex symbol look like a wino. The film may do better overseas, where Costner is still a huge draw.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|