Despite the long-winded marketing campaign, extensive promotional touring and 22-year-old in-built fan base, the highly-anticipated 2012 revision of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 smash hit “Total Recall,” was a big bomb at American box offices this past weekend.
With an estimated production budget of $200 million, the new, highly-digitalized rendition took in just $26 million at the theaters on its opening weekend, a very distant second to third-weekend blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises,” which added $36.4 million to its profits, totaling $354.6 million since its dramatic opening.
However, “Total Recall” isn’t the only remake/re-imagination/reboot/reinvention that has failed to make its monetary mark in American cinemas in recent times.
2011’s “Conan the Barbarian” remake was listed to have cost $90 million to make, but gleaned just $21.3 million at the box office, and the “Arthur” reboot also failed to deliver last year, returning $33 million of its $40 million budget. “Let Me In” brought in $12 million off a $20 million budget, and and 2007’s “3:10 to Yuma” also fell below expectation with a domestic gross of $53.6 million and a $55 million budget.
So are audiences simply sick of the film industry’s mounting obsession with making all that is old new again – and thus vying for some original storylines? Is the prominent theory that studios are now hesitant to take risks of new material and instead out to capitalize on pre-established fan bases starting to look flawed?
“Relevance to the audience is all that matters. ‘Total Recall’ was relevant when it came out but has lost its relevance in the year 2012. I am surprised it did not do less at the box than it did,” Gary Delfiner, Senior VP of Digital Distribution at Screen Media Ventures told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Studios turn to remakes and pick films to market to younger audiences who were just children when the original film was made. But that misses the mark completely, and sometimes it comes down to picking the wrong material. After all, movies are ultimately decided upon by one or two executives and of course, they can get it wrong.”
But such executive decisions can, on other occasions, get it right. The recent film, “Amazing Spiderman” proved profitable, earning $251.4 million domestically, cast against a reported $230 million budget. In 2010, the revival of “The Karate Kid” scooped up $176.5 million pitted at a $40 million budget, and in 2006 “The Departed” attracted $132 million off a $90 million budget, and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
“There is room for both new films and remakes. Hollywood will always want to re-boot projects that have been successful before and find ways to keep franchises going,” explained Jami Philbrick, managing editor of movie news website iamRogue.com. “But at the same time, are open to fresh ideas that can create popular franchises.”
However, remake flops also beg the question: is it the movie itself that deserves most of the blame, or is it the ensemble cast which lack the power to fill seats? In the case of “Total Recall,” male lead Colin Farrell certainly hasn’t had the track record of his iconic predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Farrell’s last major film “Fright Night” (also a remake) had a budget of $30 million but made just over $18 million at the domestic box office. Prior to that, “The Way Back” drew $2.7 million contrasted to its $30 million budget, , the total domestic gross for “Ondine” was $550,000 yet with a $12 million budget. “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” had an estimated production budget of $30 million, but brought in only $7.6 million in domestic ticket sales. Alternatively, in 2011 Farrell starred alongside Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey in “Horrible Bosses” and it was a big success, having made $117 million against its $35 million budget.
And Farrell’s leading ladies in “Recall” aren’t exactly considered to be guaranteed box office draws either.
Jessica Biel’s star-studded “New Year’s Eve” fizzled, grossing $54.5 million domestically against its $56 million budget, the uber-hyped film adaptation of the hit TV series “The A-Team” was also deemed a flop, having made $77 million in U.S. with a budget of $110 million.
Meanwhile, Kate Beckinsale’s “Underworld Awakening” earned $62.3 million with a $70 million budget, and before that “Everybody’s Fine” attracted $9.2 million nationally, falling short of its $21 million budget. “Contraband” was a hit however, reeling in $66.5 million on the heels of a $25 million budget.
“At the end of the day, ‘Total Recall’ is a remake of a beloved cult film, and it’s hard to top Arnold in the minds of Sci-fi fans. And while Colin, Kate, Jessica and Bryan Cranston are all excellent actors none of them really have true movie star power to open a film like Arnold did in the early 90’s. But the days of the movie star putting people in seats is over, with a few rare exceptions,” Philbrick added. “It is spectacle which sells a movie like ‘Total Recall.’ The idea or a remake or a ‘re-imagining’ is helpful to get people interested in a project but if the material is no good, they aren’t going to pay money to see it.”
And this weekend, we’ll see how Universal Pictures does in its attempt to keep the “Bourne” legacy alive without Matt Damon in the Jeremy Renner-starring “The Bourne Legacy” which has been described as a re-imagining, a re-boot, a prequel and a sequel all wrapped up in one.