Before Tomorrowland hit theaters, many sci-fi fans, myself included, were hoping it would be the next great leap in forward-thinking blockbuster storytelling. It was a wholly original story, it had George Clooney attached, and director Brad Bird had already proved his live-action prowess with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. All the stars seemed to be aligning for something great… Then Tomorrowland actually came out.
The film was met with lukewarm reviews and soft box office numbers, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s set to lose Disney between $120 and $140 million by the end of its box office run, thanks to both the $180 million production budget and the $150 million or so Disney poured into promoting the flick. That’s the biggest loss Disney’s taken on a film since The Lone Ranger flopped in 2013.
So, what does this mean for Disney? Likely not much for the moment, since the studio already released the megahit Avengers: Age of Ultron this year, and has likely hits Ant-Man and Inside Out on deck. And there’s the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will hit theaters before the year’s end, requiring all of us to come up with new ways to count money. The big question is what it will mean for original (meaning non-sequel, prequel or remake) blockbusters going forward. Warner Bros. has doe very well with San Andreas, which cost $70 million less to make than Tomorrowland, while the relatively cheap Spy has come close to the $100 million-mark in less than a week. The message, if you look at things that way, seems to be that cheaper is better.
So, does this mean original, big-budget blockbusters are in danger? Not entirely. After all, studios like Pixar keep cranking out hit after hit, but it will be interesting to see how the live-action blockbuster scene changes in the coming years if studios keep taking hits like Tomorrowland.