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Predicting The Biggest Box Office Bombs Of 2019

The movie business is just that — a profit-driven enterprise. Sure, MGM's tagline was famously "Ars gratia artis" ("art for art's sake"), but let's be real here: a movie can get 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, but if it loses money, it's forever shackled with the label "box office bomb." Vertigo. Citizen Kane. It's A Wonderful Life. These films frequently make the lists of "greatest movies ever" (heck, one is even an annual holiday tradition), but at the time of their release, they barely made money, or even put their studios in the red. To put it bluntly, they bombed.

Let's be fair, though — unless it features dinosaurs or a Marvel hero, predicting a hit from a flop is really, really hard. A 2.5-hour movie about 15-foot tall blue aliens fighting space marines with a plot remarkably similar to Dances with Wolves and Ferngully is the highest-grossing movie ever, while Snakes on a Plane crashed and burned (#injustice).

That said, 2019 features some releases that seem pretty obviously destined for box office doom. And unlike some of the above-mentioned titles, none of them are likely to join the ranks of "greatest movie ever" — more likely they'll wind up on future episodes of How Did This Get Made? Just be glad your salary doesn't depend on any of these films making money, and get ready for a sneak peek at the biggest box office bombs of 2019.

Serenity - January 25, 2019

Sorry, Whedon Worshippers — this isn't a remake of 2005's Serenity (adored by critics, ignored by audiences). This Serenity is different. Like, "what the heck is going on?" different. However, it too will bomb.

Sure, it has a lot going for it. It stars A-list Academy Award winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway for the first time since Interstellar. But even their beautiful, million-dollar mugs are no guarantee it will make bank. While he's evolved from his EdTV and "Leaning Matthew" phase, the McConaissance has been spotty at the box office. Serenity will continue this trend, mostly because the movie looks... well, indescribable. Weird movies are fine, but they don't lead to box office glory. And Serenity doesn't just look bizarre, it looks baffling. The trailer defies comprehension (maybe it should be titled How To Lose An Audience In 10 Seconds) and consequently nobody can tell what it's about. Moviegoers want to have at least some idea what they're spending their $10.45 on. It won't be Serenity.

On the plus side, its competition that weekend seems pretty light (The Kid Who Would Be King and Untitled STX Action/Thriller), but it's also going up against the second weekend of M. Night Shyamalan's much-anticipated Glass. That movie is about as mainstream as it gets and is a case study in how to market strange material. Serenity, take notes.

Alita: Battle Angel - February 14, 2019

Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar auteur James Cameron — whose Snapchat stories could probably break box office records — is producing this long-gestating sci-fi adventure, while director duties go to former indie darling turned Spy Kids creator/Lucha Underground executive producer Robert Rodriguez, who's helming the $200 million film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's famous post-apocalyptic manga.

Anybody else getting a Last Airbender or Ghost in the Shell vibe? Those films were rightly and repeatedly criticized for white-washing their source material, and Rodriguez is already trying to get out in front of this, but his logic is a stretch. Airbender made money; Ghost, not so much. Alita seems more like the latter, with its PG-13 rating likely to turn off fans of the violent source material, while doing nothing to lure in kiddos.

There's also Rodriguez, whose last film was 2014's mega-turkey Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. While he's notorious for stretching a dollar (he made his first movie, El Mariachi, for just $7,000), this movie's budget is about 28,000 times that. It's one thing for your movie to make money because it was so cheap to produce. It's a whole different ballgame to turn a profit on a $200 million investment.

Look for this to bomb stateside, with producers hoping it'll perform well overseas. And if not, at least James Cameron has his four Avatar sequels to look forward to.

Fighting with My Family - February 14, 2019

Man, February 14-16 is going to be bad at the box office. Maybe couples will just stay home for Valentine's? More likely they'll see Happy Death Day 2U.

What audiences won't be seeing is Fighting with My Family. Has there ever been a less enticing title? Will the sequels be called Arguing with My Spouse and Being Belittled By My Children?

Based on a 2012 documentary, The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, this new Fighting follows the true story of WWE wrestler Paige. The film has muscle behind it: it's directed by Stephan Merchant, produced by WWE Studios, distributed by MGM, and executive produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who also makes a cameo.

The WWE has a super-loyal fanbase, but that loyalty hasn't extended to dropping $10 on a movie ticket. Besides, most WWE Studios releases go straight to video (like The Marine 6: Close Quarters... yes, there have been six Marine movies). Even the Rock doesn't guarantee a blockbuster (see Baywatch — actually, don't), and honestly, his whole part in Fighting may just be this teaser

While it'll probably bomb, Fighting with My Family won't leave Vince McMahon Crying to My Shareholders. WWE has a deal to perform in Saudi Arabia worth multiple millions. Sure, it's horrible PR and definitely unethical, but maybe Vince hopes this underdog story about a plucky girl living her dream of working for him one day will counteract that. Good luck with that. 

Five Feet Apart - March 22, 2019

Does the world need another weepy teen romance where pretty sick kids dying from an incurable disease fall in love? Clearly the filmmakers behind Five Feet Apart think the answer is "yes." Seriously, if Blockbuster was still around (RIP), "Sick Teenagers in Love" would be its own section between Sci-Fi and Sports.

In Five Feet Apart, two teens with cystic fibrosis fall for each other despite the odds, because as they and the audience know, this story isn't going to have a happy ending. Sure, it'll have a life-affirming, inspirational, "two tissue boxes required" ending, but not happy. Swap cystic fibrosis for cancer and you have pretty much the same setup as The Fault in Our Stars, or whatever movie is playing on the Lifetime Channel this very second.

The "five feet apart" in the title is that the hospital is forcing the sickly Romeo and Juliet to stay... wait for it... five feet apart from each other. You can almost see the pitch:

Producer: It's like Fault in Our Stars, but they can't touch!

Studio Boss: Love it! Here's $30 million.

Meanwhile, it takes Martin Scorsese decades to get his dream projects made. Anyway, the film will be up against the third weekend of Captain Marvel, the second weekend of Jordan Peele's Get Out followup, Us, as well as Tom Hanks' World War II drama Greyhound (Hanks + WWII = $$$$). Look for moviegoers to stay several screens away from Five Feet Away.

Captive State - March 29, 2019

Before you read this, go watch the Captive State trailer. Because it... looks... awesome!

You back? Cool.

So Captive State looks tremendous. Clever concept. Compelling visuals. John Goodman. Vera Farmiga. Any one of those is enough to earn our money. Even so, it may not be enough to make this sci-fi/horror actioner a hit, and you can blame it on scheduling. Captive State was bumped from August 2018 back to March 29, 2019, where it will go "mano a elefante" against Tim Burton's Dumbo, the first of many Disney live-action remakes next year (seriously Disney, spread them out). With their extremely competitive release schedule and the launch of their Disney+ streaming service, Disney hopes to get all of your money in 2019... and probably world domination too.

Captive State has a great pedigree (Rise of the Planet of the Apes' director), but high-concept sci-fi is hit or miss. For every District 9 or 10 Cloverfield Lane, there's a Jupiter Ascending or (insert failed sci-fi film here). Sci-fi's a risky bet even under the best conditions — but against Tim Burton and an adorable flying elephant? That's tough. Captive State may have a chance at counter-programming, but only if it's really good. We've all been burned by incredible trailers for bland movies, so hopefully Captive State won't follow that trend. If it does, expect it to fall harder than an elephant that tries to fly.

The Best of Enemies - April 5, 2019

Beware of Oscar-bait movies that come out in the spring. As a general rule, Oscar season usually starts in the fall (given Academy members' short-term memories). With the notable exception of Best Picture winner Crash (which has its critics), springtime "message movies" rarely make a dent in the public consciousness, let alone the box office.

Take The Best of Enemies, for example. The film is about a civil rights activist played by Taraji P. Henson who co-chairs a community meeting about school desegregation with a KKK leader played by Sam Rockwell. Surprising nobody, the experience changes both of their lives. It sounds like either a really saccharine made-for-TV movie or a really twisted SNL skit, but it's actually based on a true story.

Henson recently starred in the Oscar-nominated blockbuster Hidden Figures, as well as the award-winning hit TV show Empire. She's also starring in What Men Want, which has good momentum leading to its February 8, 2019 opening. But while Henson is on a roll lately, Rockwell has never been on one. Rockwell's a fine actor, sure, but his only hit remains 2008's Iron Man 2.

Maybe Henson's star power will eclipse Rockwell's "box office poison" status? Or more likely The Best of Enemies will disappear from theaters just as fast as every other "awards contender" released in April.

Doom - May 17, 2019

Why? Just... why?

The first Doom movie was released in 2005, and even with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson above the title, it only made $55 million worldwide — $5 million less than its budget and less than half of what the Rock earned in 2017. But hey, an action movie franchise can't bomb twice... right?

This new Rock-less Doom is set to arrive in a crowded summer opening session bookmarked by Avengers 4 on May 3, Aladdin on May 24, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters on May 31. Will audiences really want to drop the extra cash on a remake of a remake of a video game? Considering that video game adaptations have never made a mark on the record books, that's probably a "no."

Of course, that might all change this summer... with Detective Pikachu, which comes out a week before Doom. Fans of the popular first-person shooter franchise will probably counter that the 2016 Doom video game was well-received and its much-anticipated sequel Doom: Eternal drops in 2019, so maybe gamers will be so amped up from blowing up space monsters they'll want to pay to see someone do it onscreen. More likely, they'll have already blown $60 on the game and would rather just stay home playing it instead. 

New Mutants - August 2, 2019

The New Mutants is about a group of teenage mutant superheroes who aren't turtles, so that's already a huge mark against it. Not helping matters is the confused genre-splicing of horror and superhero action in what will be the 13th film in 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise. Take a moment to consider how much of your life you've spent watching X-Men movies.

To its credit, the series hasn't been overly cautious about about mixing genres. The comedy-superhero hybrid Deadpool spinoffs have made millions at the domestic box office, and are the highest-grossing films in the entire X-Men franchise. But those films had a huge plus factor in their favor — people actually wanted to see them. When the Deadpool trailer dropped, moviegoers were circling their calendars for February 12, 2016.

The reception for The New Mutants was much more muted and frankly confused. The incredibly dark, murky and dread-filled trailer even had some fans mockingly saying it looks like a DCEU movie, which are fighting words in the superhero genre. Is there really an appetite for a Hostel-esque X-Men movie?

There's also the franchise fatigue factor — again, this is the 13th film in the series since 2000, and the 12th, Dark Phoenix, opens just two months before on June 7. Perhaps fans are just ready for The Mouse House to take over Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters?

Dora The Explorer - August 2, 2019

Dora The Explorer lasted for 14 years before the young adventurer hung up her backpack in 2014. After five years, the little girl and her anthropomorphic, pink monkey Boots are coming to the big screen.

Five years may not seem like a long time to adults like us, but to kids, five years is the timespan between wearing diapers and learning to read. Dora's youngest fans are about 8-10 now, and banking on fifth graders waxing nostalgic for a show from their youth seems misguided. Little kids today have no connection to Dora, and while 20-somethings who watched the show back in the day may go with their kids, will the show even translate to film? As every Nick Jr. alumnus knows, educational shows like Dora follow a familiar formula: a character asks the audience a question, followed by a long, awkward silence where you're supposed to answer. Can you imagine sitting in a dark theater as a character asks "If I have three bananas and lose one, how many bananas do I have?" then waits for you to answer? 

Playing Dora will be Isabela Moner, star of Nick's 100 Things to Do Before High School as well as Transformers: The Last Knight and Sicario: Day of the Soldado (clearly different demographics). While Moner's developing star power may save this pic, it's more likely that Dora will be asking questions to largely empty theaters.

Rambo V - TBD Fall 2019

Sylvester Stallone is awesome, and Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo (and Rocky Balboa) is the most awesome. But while the Rocky series has wisely transformed into the Creed series and thus freshened up the franchise, Rambo V definitely has the air of  "Oh boy, here we go again."

Rambo V finds the septuagenarian Stallone returning to the character he hasn't played since 2008's Rambo, this time to battle Mexican drug cartels. Given that he's already beaten redneck cops, the Viet Cong, and the Soviet and Burmese Armies, finally winning the drug war should be a walk in the park.

It's worth noting that Stallone is tougher at 72 than most of us at 22, 32 — any two, really. But do audiences really want to see someone older than their grandfather playing a one-man Army like it's 1985? Honestly, the idea does have its appeal, and who knows? Maybe Stallone will find a way to reinvigorate Rambo the way he did with Rocky. In all likelihood, however, it's long past time for Rambo to hang up the bandana and blade — and this is the film that forces him to do it.

The Tax Collector - TBD Fall 2019

Next to nothing has been revealed about The Tax Collector, except it stars Shia LaBeouf and is being directed by David Ayer... which is all anyone needs to know, really.

Collector reunites the director and star of the 2014 tank drama Fury. LaBeouf was rebuffed by studio execs for a part in Ayer's Suicide Squad, apparently because of his peculiar offscreen antics. Now the two are back in a what appears to be a modestly sized studio crime film, one Shia's reps are presumably hoping will resurrect his spiraling career. Once the next big thing, LaBeouf is more known today for Shia-nanigans such as #AllMyMovies, wearing an "I Am Not Famous Anymore" paper sack, and going on a profane rant while being arrested in Georgia. But wait, there's more...

Shia's erratic behavior makes Lindsay Lohan look like Tom Hanks, but studios are willing to forgive and forget if an actor's movie makes money. This one won't. The first image Ayer shared from the film — of an inked-up LaBeouf — doesn't inspire much hope. Really, it just serves to remind audiences that Ayer's "edginess" is often as superficial as his star's temporary tattoos. Without a cool concept to hide behind (like a super villain team-up featuring Harley Quinn's big-screen debut or a modern fairytale supported by Netflix's marketing might), expect Ayer's luck to run out, and Shia's shot at cinematic redemption to go with it.

Gemini Man - October 4, 2019

Not long ago, Will Smith could star in a deodorant commercial and it would be a surefire hit. But a string of bad, bland, and just plain bizarre choices has damaged the Fresh Prince's bankability — and perhaps more importantly, his credibility. Which brings us to Gemini Man, which is being helmed by Ang Lee, one of the greatest living directors, though one with a spotty box office record at best. More importantly, it reunites Smith with his Bad Boys and Enemy of the State producer, Jerry Bruckheimer.

The story — an older hitman faces off against a young clone of himself — sounds like a lazy Looper ripoff, except Gemini Man was in development for 20 years before being greenlit. Maybe there was a reason for that? It certainly feels like a movie that would have been fresh in 1997. Now it sounds like a been-there, done-that, '90s actioner, complete with genre icons Smith and Bruckheimer. Honestly, the only one missing is Michael Bay. Gemini Man won't light the box office on fire, but should at least get plenty of play on basic cable. Because when it comes to movies, there is life after death. It's called the TNT network.

Joker - October 4, 2019

Joker is either going to be the greatest thing ever or the worst — there's no middle ground. We're hoping for a masterpiece or a trainwreck, but betting on the latter.

Which is strange. Just imagine if six years ago, you heard there was going to be a Joker-centric crime saga directed by Todd Phillips, starring Joaquin Phoenix, and produced by Martin freaking Scorsese... you'd be pretty excited, right? But post-DC Snyderverse and whatever Jared Leto was doing in Suicide Squad, our expectations for DC movies are at an all-time low.

Could Joker be the film to turn it around? Maybe. The leaked and official production pics look promising, but like jilted lovers, we're not quite ready to forgive DC. Besides, this entire "Elseworlds" concept, in which Joker will not belong to the same DCEU as Jared Leto, may be fine for the comics, but is likely to be confusing and bizarre to the casual audiences that a blockbuster needs to succeed.

"Wait, I thought that skinny weirdo with the grill was playing Joker?"

"Well, yeah, but that's in a different universe."

Yes, Batman and the other bat-characters are arguably the most popular in comic books. But as another DC fall release recently proved, the Bat isn't an automatic blockbuster. You can only go to the same well so many times before it runs dry.

Terminator 6 - November 1, 2019

Speaking of going to the well too many times, here's the latest attempt to get the Terminator franchise back on track. You're probably thinking "Wait, another one? Didn't Terminator: Whatever bomb?"

It did. Terminator: Genisys was a dud in 2015... in the U.S., anyway. It made enough overseas to justify another trip to the post-apocalypse. Thank China for this latest entry — otherwise, the series would've been sold for scraps.

As with Rambo, every new Terminator movie is basically another attempt to resurrect an aimless franchise headlined by a 70-something star. Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger could definitely still kick all of our butts without breaking his cigar, but that doesn't stop this whole enterprise from seeming like a tired cash grab with an ever-decreasing return on its investment. Honestly, the most interesting thing this series could do is send the T-800 back in time to stop these movies from being made (at least after the masterpiece that was T2: Judgment Day.)

Although actually it sounds like that's what they're doing. T6 is supposed to be a direct sequel to T2, with Rise of the Machines, Salvation, Genisys and The Sarah Connor Chronicles wiped from history. You can do that with a time-travel movie, right? Linda Hamilton is even returning as Sarah Connor, and James Cameron is producing and contributing to the story. That's good enough for a little interest, though it won't be enough to save this film from bombing harder than, well...

Don't fret, Terminator franchise. There's still China.

Cats - December 20, 2019

Big-screen musical adaptations are pretty hit-or-miss at the box office. For every Chicago or Les Miserables, there's Rock of Ages or Rent. And while Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most bankable names on Broadway and the West End (the dude made a show about trains on roller skates a smash hit), his film record isn't nearly as impressive (1996's Evita, 2004's Phantom of the Opera).

Could Cats end his string of box office blandness? It is based on one of his most popular musicals, (the fourth longest-running show on Broadway), and features perhaps his most famous song, "Memory." However, his most popular musical, and Broadway's longest-running show, was the aforementioned Phantom, which only scared up $51 million and change in U.S. theaters.

The movie's biggest coverage has come from its controversial casting of Taylor Swift in a lead role (wouldn't Katy Perry, who sang "Roar," have been a better choice?). While casting pop stars won't sink a musical adaptation (Queen Bey was in Dreamgirls), it does lend the film that same air of diva indulgence that plagued Evita.

There's also the fact it's coming out the same day as a quiet little indie drama currently known as Star Wars: Episode IX. Maybe this is brilliant counter programming? Perhaps, although the five or six people who aren't interested in seeing the Star Wars saga's conclusion will probably just go watch the Jumanji sequel instead.