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'Jack the Giant Slayer': Eight ways to spin your box-office bomb

March 04, 2013|By John Horn
  • "Jack the Giant Slayer" is the first mega bomb of 2013. But distributor Warner Bros. says the film is doing well in Canada.
"Jack the Giant Slayer" is the first mega bomb of 2013. But distributor… (Warner Bros. )

The underwhelming numbers for Warner Bros.' "Jack the Giant Slayer" this weekend remind us that Hollywood executives are masters of public-relations hustles -- and rarely is that talent more dramatically displayed than in the wake of a box-office bomb.

You will never hear a marketing or distribution executive publicly admit the truth: Our movie truly stinks, and we're amazed anybody even showed up. Instead, you will get all manner of excuses, fabrications and fibs. They generally can be divided into distinct categories of spin.  

VIDEO REVIEW: Nothing magic about 'Jack the Giant Slayer'

Here's our look at eight ways studios dissemble when the numbers don't turn out as they had hoped.

1. It may have fizzled here, but look elsewhere.

Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Warner Bros., on "Jack," which took in $28 million (and cost in the neighborhood of $200 million to make): “Our audience in the United States was a little bit more narrow than we wanted, but the Canadian numbers are really strong, and the overseas reaction has exceeded our expectations.... I think the ultimate story is all about the global number."

2. Don't just focus on the weekend numbers. Consider the end of time as we know it.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation Studios, on "Rise of the Guardians":  "We will wait and see what the outcome is. The audience gets to decide [its future]. There are clearly more stories that can be told."

3. People really liked the movie. Just not very many. 

Chuck Viane, president of worldwide distribution for Disney, on "Mars Needs Moms": "The right audience came, but not in the numbers we needed."

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4. You try selling this turkey. And it cost so much we had to open wide. 

Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., on "Cloud Atlas": "It played more like an art film. And yet with the negative cost involved, we had no choice but to hit the button."

5. Our salvation is just around the corner. Honest. 

Nikki Rocco, distribution president at Universal Pictures, on "Battleship": "Yes, it's a disappointing opening. But with the holiday weekend approaching, we do think 'Battleship' will be a choice for moviegoers." 

6. Audiences, even if tiny, are actually talking it up. 

Dave Hollis, president of worldwide distribution at Disney, on "John Carter": "While of course we appreciate the larger economics of the film, we're encouraged with how it's been received by audiences and hope to see that generate positive word of mouth."

7. Who cares about box office anyway?

Steven Friedlander, executive vice president of theatrical distribution for CBS Films, on "The Last Exorcism Part II": “It’s one of those pictures that will do well on video-on-demand."

8. Blame the weather.

Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony, on how Hurricane Irene hurt  "Colombiana.” “Not only were there closures due to the weather, but people were just not leaving their homes."


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