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The Biggest Box Office Bombs Of 2023 So Far

The film industry is seeing a major tide shift. People are returning to movie theaters nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the film industry and box office receipts. Consider two of the highest-grossing movies of 2022 – "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water" – which gave ardent film buffs newfound hope in the power of the moviegoing experience.

However, not everything has returned to how it was before the pandemic. As a result of the rise in exclusive streaming releases, audiences have become much more selective about the kind of movies they will pay to watch in theaters — given it often only takes a few weeks for those same movies to appear on streaming platforms, viewed in the comfort of their homes. As a result, this has led to a few unexpected bombs at the box office.

Some of these films were greenlit before the pandemic, when the markets were vastly different. Some were entries in a doomed franchise, hence dead on arrival, while others were just a product of poor planning and marketing, having overloaded costs without any proper analysis of the market. Here are the biggest box office bombs of 2023 so far.


"Renfield" opened to a measly $10 million on a $65 million budget, facing stiff competition from other April releases like "The Pope's Exorcist" and "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." Given that the character of Dracula has had a haunting legacy in horror for the past century, viewers who came to watch "Renfield" expecting a scary movie were disappointed to find that the comedy aspects were dominant.

This is particularly important, considering that horror films are known to be profitable at the box office, given their generally low production costs and high demand from horror-loving fans. "Renfield" faced direct competition from "The Pope's Exorcist," which was made on a much lower budget of $18 million and was solely focused on delivering a horror experience — it ended up raking in a worldwide gross of $66 million. Additionally, Universal's decision to release "Renfield" just a week after their own commercial juggernaut, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," could be deemed questionable, highlighting the lack of faith the distribution company had in its scrappy horror comedy.

"The Pope's Exorcist" producer, Jeff Katz, took to Twitter to express his glee, "Looks like [The Pope's Exorcist] is coming in ahead of RENFIELD to debut in second place this weekend ... Beating our direct competition — who had double our marketing spend and more than 3x our production budget — is a nice little win." Katz continued in another tweet, "The moral of the story is that genre pictures should generally only be made for a smart price. Whole point is to be able to hit singles and doubles and still potentially come back for more. POPE's will be profitable for Sony entirely because of this approach."

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam truly did face the fury of the box office gods this year. Raking in $30.5 million in its opening weekend, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" was the worst opening for a DCEU film that wasn't released during the pandemic, especially when compared to the $53.5 million opening of its 2019 predecessor. With a worldwide take of just over $130 million — on a $110 million budget and with another $100 million in marketing costs — it would be an understatement to say that the film was a box-office disappointment.

A growing sense of "superhero fatigue" among audiences, lack of positive word of mouth, and mediocre critical reception are just some of the reasons attributed to the film's flop. Additionally, the announcement of a rebooted DC Universe by new DC Studios heads, James Gunn and Peter Safran, may have lowered audience interest in existing DCEU narratives, and competition with "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" proved to be a fatal blow to "Fury of the Gods."

This wasn't a surprise for director David F. Sandberg, however, who made a now-deleted comment on Reddit (via Comicbook.com), "I saw where this was heading a long time ago. I'll be alright though. I got paid all my money upfront." Similarly, lead star Zachary Levi tweeted his take on the film's disappointing reception, writing, "I think the biggest issue we're having is marketing. This is a perfect family movie, and yet a lot of families aren't aware of that. Which is just a shame."


"65" is an original science-fiction film that's not part of a larger franchise — a rare creature, these days. The film follows a space pilot (Adam Driver) and a young girl (Ariana Greenblatt) as their ship crashes on a dinosaur-infested Earth, following their efforts to make their way through the perilous habitat of the prehistoric planet.

The film's marketing banked on Driver's fan following, so much so that the film is colloquially referred to as "Adam Driver's 65" to make up for an ambiguous and rather bland title. The problem? Driver's star power hasn't necessarily proved to be a box office draw outside of the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy — especially considering that the budget for "65" was reported to be around $91 million.

This expensive film was also released in March 2023, a month when audiences had several other films to choose from for their cinema-going experience. "65" competed with franchise flicks that many fans eagerly looked forward to, such as "Scream VI," "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," and "Creed III," along with movies released earlier that were still running in theaters, like "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" and "Avatar: The Way of Water." The poor word of mouth and critical reception (it currently sits at a 35% Tomatometer rating) didn't help the case of a film that became an inevitable flop.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

After a long-drawn-out legal battle between several studios over the film adaptation rights to the beloved tabletop game "Dungeons & Dragons," "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" finally hit cinemas in March 2023 to positive reviews and a solid opening at the box office, garnering $38 million on a projection of $30 million in its opening weekend.

While the film went on to rake in a worldwide gross of $190 million, there are doubts about whether the fantasy film will be viewed as a success, considering that the film's budget is reported to be $150 million minus marketing costs. The general rule of thumb in terms of a film's profitability is that blockbusters need to earn at least 2.5 times their budget to be profitable, given their large marketing costs, which means that "Honor Among Thieves" would have had to gross at least $370 million for it to break even — a far cry from its $190 million gross.

The film's competition with other March releases, especially "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," added to the uphill climb of "Honor Among Thieves" at the box office, in addition to the growing evidence of fantasy movies being a box office rut in recent years as they face competition from popular fantasy television series like "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" and "House of the Dragon." The film's disappointing returns spell doubt about the possibility of a sequel, but the upside is that it could prove to be a worthwhile venture when it is released on Paramount+.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Gurre

Guy Ritchie's films have always been hit or miss. His 2019 Disney live-action remake of "Aladdin" grossed a little over $1 billion worldwide, while his 2017 historical epic, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" turned out to be a major box office disappointment. Ritchie's latest spy flick, "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre," proved its poor fortune with a meager $3.1 million domestic opening and a worldwide gross of $37 million against an estimated $50 million budget.

The film's poor box office showing wasn't surprising, however, as many trade experts foretold its inevitable financial doom, given its troubled marketing and release debacle. "Operation Fortune" was marred with multiple delays in its release — initially being slated for a January 2022 release, it was then delayed to March due to a spike in COVID-19 cases through the United States, only to be pulled from release indefinitely simply due to bad timing. As it turns out, the majority of the film's villains are Ukrainian, a coincidence that producers felt was in poor taste considering the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moreover, financial problems plagued production studio STX, with its merger and restructuring further putting the release of "Operation Fortune" in doubt. As a result, the film suffered from poor marketing, given that its final release date was announced just a few weeks before its March 2023 release. This gave the film very little time to build any hype for audiences amid its competition against "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," "Creed III," "John Wick: Chapter 4," and "Scream VI."

Beau Is Afraid

In the month since its release, "Beau Is Afraid" made a total of just $8.3 million on a budget of $35 million – A24's most expensive film to date. With a large budget for an indie film, writer-director Ari Aster was given complete free reign over the canvas to splash grandiose strokes of his distinctively absurdist style. But this, unfortunately, is why the film polarized audiences so much. One wing of the polarization celebrated Aster's non-conformist filmmaking approach, while the other was unable to shake off the feeling that he may have been too self-indulgent with this film.

It's not unreasonable for A24 to have expected big returns from Aster's third outing, given that the director's previous two films proved that there's an audience for his brand of movie-making. 2018's "Hereditary" made over $81 million on a budget of $10 million, and 2019's "Midsommar" grossed $46 million on a budget of $9 million. Compared to "Beau Is Afraid," the budgets for both these films were modest, which was a major factor in their profitability. Even though "Beau Is Afraid" topped the 2023 indie box office, with a record collection of $320,396 from four theaters in its opening weekend, it's likely that the film will become a huge financial loss for A24.

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant

Of all the filmmakers you could imagine appearing more than once on a list like this, Guy Ritchie is perhaps the least likely pick. His second release in 2023, "Guy Ritchie's The Covenant," is his best-reviewed movie to date, with an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the film's critical achievement was overshadowed by its significant financial failure, making a worldwide gross of just $15.4 million on a bloated $55 million budget.

"Guy Ritchie's The Covenant" is nothing like any of Ritchie's other films: It's much more tonally grounded and pensive without the wit or style that the director's filmography boasts. Even after attaching the filmmaker's name to the title, it failed to draw in fans of Guy Ritchie. The bomb could be blamed on the film's minimal marketing, as well as its distribution model of releasing in just over 2600 theaters domestically, with no theatrical release internationally. 

The film was distributed by MGM (owned by Amazon) in the U.S., while the international distribution and post-theatrical streaming rights were relegated to Amazon Prime Video, essentially making it a streamer in other countries. As with Ritchie's "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre," which was released just a month before "The Covenant," both films were produced by STXfilms, whose financial problems in the past few years also likely impacted the film's marketing and release.

Magic Mike's Last Dance

With a $40 million budget plus $20 million in marketing, Magic Mike's final outing proved to be the most expensive as well as the least profitable in the franchise. While "Magic Mike's Last Dance" topped the box office in its opening weekend with a collection of $8.2 million, the film ended its theatrical run with a worldwide gross of $56 million, a far cry from the profitability of its predecessors. In comparison, 2012's "Magic Mike" earned a total global gross of $170 million, while its 2015 sequel "Magic Mike XXL" made a total of $123 million worldwide.

"Magic Mike's Last Dance" was originally produced to be an HBO Max exclusive, until Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav – an ardent supporter of the theatrical moviegoing experience – opted to give the film a wide theatrical release. However, given that it had been nearly eight years since the release of the previous film, audiences weren't as keen to catch up with the franchise. As the third movie shifted its focus to Mike and newcomer Max's romance, the ensemble cast that made the prior two movies so popular was virtually absent. Members of Mike's troupe, "Kings of Tampa" — played by Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, and Adam Rodriguez — appeared briefly at the end of "Last Dance," which wasn't enough for those who had been expecting their presence.

Big George Foreman

"Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World" chronicles the rise, fall, and rise again of the boxing legend and entrepreneur George Foreman. Produced at a $32 million budget, the most expensive project of production studio Affirm Films (the Christian media subsidiary of Sony Pictures), "Big George Foreman" was projected to earn $5 million in its opening weekend, only to scrape in a disappointing $3 million from 3,054 theaters.

While the high budget isn't entirely unreasonable, given that George Foreman is a household name in the U.S., the film's failure could be attributed to inadequate marketing and a lack of clear focus on its target audiences. "Big George Foreman" was split on its marketing, attempting to appeal to both Christian audiences and sports genre fans. The film didn't win over either group, with the former considering the film too "mainstream" and the latter finding it too heavy-handedly faith-oriented.

Faith-based films are generally produced on modest budgets, which is a significant component of their profitability. In comparison to other faith-based films released in 2023, Lionsgate's "Jesus Revolution" grossed $52 million on a budget of $15 million, while the indie biblical "His Only Son," produced with a $250,000 budget, raked in an impressive $12 million. With a total global gross of just $5.2 million so far, the film shows no signs of recovering its $35 million budget, proving "Big George Foreman" to be a big loss-making venture.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

For nearly 49 years, author Judy Blume had outright refused any offers for the film rights to her bestselling 1970 novel "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," until a visit from producer James L. Brooks and writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig ("The Edge of Seventeen") convinced the author that the two would do Margaret justice on the big screen.

While the faithful film adaptation of the 1970 novel was released to rave reviews from both critics and audiences, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" opened to a disappointing $6.8 million. It looks to be on a difficult road for the film to recover its $30 million budget, considering that the film is geared towards a very specific target audience.

Despite the story's timeless themes, the non-contemporary 1970s setting could have had a detrimental effect on the film's appeal with its target demographic of young girls. Given that the film primarily attracted women over 45 who grew up with the book, rather than its intended target audience of teen and preteen girls (who made up only 6% of the film's overall audience demographics), a lack of clarity regarding who this movie was for may be the main reason it bombed.