Warcraft and Ghostbusters: Why did these movies fail?

By: 
Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

Some weeks back, I wrote a column titled “Ghostbusters will thrive against menanist backlash.”

I was wrong.

I recently looked into two movies: Ghostbusters and Warcraft, two movies I liked and I found out that they both (probably) lost money. Why is that?

For starters, both films brought in more than the reported budget. But the reported budget doesn’t account for everything. Studios spend a lot of extra money on advertising in so many different places and that doesn’t necessarily get reported, especially if they want to deny that a film was a failure. I haven’t been able to find solid answers online on in if they lost money or not, which is why I said “probably.” The consensus seems to be that Warcraft lost money at the start. There’s word on Ghostbusters, even though Ghostbusters had a much smaller wolrdwide gross compared to the reported budget than Warcraft. But unless Ghostbusters spent less than 45 million dollars in advertising, it’s a pretty fair bet that the movie is probably in the red right now.

That’s a shame because I liked the movie. Not enough to really hope for a sequel, but I got my money’s worth and I’d hoped Sony would too.

It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I figured out the creators were intentionally baiting the menanists and haters so they could use the backlash as free advertising. A lot of fans probably picked up on that sooner and didn’t like it, or it might also contribute to that second weekend slump that most movies go through during week two.

That sort of baiting is great for getting the attention of social justice warriors who will defend the movie on Facebook, but not necessarily the sorts of people who will leave their rooms and pay to see the movie when it comes out.

Even if people didn’t plainly see what was going on, people could still pick up on the message of “Female Ghostbusters! In your face!” That would lead potential viewers to believe that the franchise had been reduced to a gimmick with no substance. I found substance in the movie, but Sony might have failed to make that clear in the advertising, which was squarely focused on the fact of female Ghostbusters and over-the-top CGI while ignoring the other things that the film had to offer.

But Warcraft’s lackluster performance came as a bigger surprise. And heartbreak.

I liked Ghostbusters, I loved Warcraft.

This is another one that I can maybe put on the advertising, if only from a financial standpoint. For a 433 million dollar worldwide box office gross verses a 160 million dollar budget to still be reported as a loss, the advertising budget must have been massive. Another contributing factor is that only about 47 million of that came from domestic box office. The reason that matters is because, apparently, studios take a smaller cut from international box office gross.

The advertising may have also failed to portray the depth that the film offered. I groaned the first time I saw the previews because I thought, “oh man. This is going to be worse than listening to fingernails on a chalkboard and I’m going to have to review it.”

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the theater that I realized it was a good movie. Even then I kept expecting some massive fail in the plot or characters to completely ruin it, but that never happened. It was just plain good.

But the theory of poor advertising doesn’t really hold water when you consider that Warcraft fell over 70% over the second weekend. Even for the second weekend, that’s a lot. Was it because people hated the movie and told all of their friends? I doubt it. Fan response for Warcraft is generally more positive than the critics reviews. Again.

In my opinion, that massive second weekend drop can be explained in two words: Finding Dory.

Bad luck.

I hold out hope for a Warcraft sequel. They were clearly setting up to tell the entire history of Azeroth, at least up to Reign of Chaos. But I’ve still got the video games and the DVD when it comes out, even if we don’t get a sequel.

It’s worth mentioning that the battle isn’t over yet. There’s still money to be made on home releases. I won’t speak for Ghostbusters, but Warcraft will probably be one of the rare movies that I buy new, rather than waiting for the prices to drop.

In any event, both of these movies were decent enough. Win or lose, they deserve a space on your book shelf, or where ever other people keep their DVDs.

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