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Predicting the biggest box office bombs of 2020

Making box office predictions is tough. Some movies seem obviously destined to fail, but somehow they still succeed, while other seemingly surefire hits crash and burn, leaving nothing but the shattered hopes of their filmmakers and financiers. As the notorious summer of 2019 taught us, predicting the box office isn't an exact science. Even Hollywood's go-to strategy of producing movies based on existing IPs (intellectual property, fancy Hollywood speak for "old stuff people used to like") failed to deliver expected results. 

Which brings us to 2020. There are no new Star Wars or Avengers movies coming out, and streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max promise to steal even more of the public's time and money. Could 2020 be a box office bloodbath? Maybe. If so, we wouldn't put our money on these movies making it out alive. We're not actively rooting for any of these movies to fail — but there's something about each of them that carries the whiff of an inevitable bomb. We may be wrong, but either way, thankfully for us, we're not the studio executives whose jobs depend on these turkeys turning a profit. Here are our predictions for the biggest box office bombs of 2020.

Underwater - January 10, 2020

Seven miles below the ocean's surface, unsuspecting crew members aboard a research station are terrorized by mysterious creatures. If this sounds like Alien under the sea, that's probably the idea. Underwater has the makings of a modest hit or an outright flop, and we're predicting the latter. 

For starters, look at its January 10 release date. Historically, early January has been a time that many studios send their biggest potential busts to die (or drown, in this case). Second, there's Underwater's lack of star power. A modestly budgeted horror film ($65 million in this case) doesn't need a movie star to make money. But even no star might be better than a lead who just endured a high-profile flop. Kristen Stewart was a star in Elizabeth Banks' reboot of Charlie's Angels, one of 2019's biggest busts, and her box office has been trending downward for some time. She hasn't had a hit where she wasn't playing Bella Swan, with the exception of the so-so Snow White and the Huntsman — and even that was seven years ago. Nobody went to go see Kristen Stewart star in what was once a popular franchise. It's hard to imagine more people showing up to see her star in a B-grade horror movie in January.

The Gentlemen - January 24, 2020

Matthew McConaughey's career rebirth, dubbed the McConaissance, has been good for the actor, and great for film and TV fans. However, despite the plaudits, box office results and even an Academy Award win for Dallas Buyers Club, this is still the same guy who once thought Two For the Money and Reign of Fire were good ideas, and more recently signed on to star in Serenity, The Beach Bum, and The Dark Tower

Point being, McConaughey has come far and we're grateful for it, but he's still prone to headlining duds, and the forthcoming The Gentlemen may be one of them. McConaughey leads a stacked cast including Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant; Guy Ritchie, fresh off 2019's Aladdin, directed. The British/American co-production is about a British drug lord who tries to sell his empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires. Sounds good, but in addition to McConaughey's spotty box office, there's the release date: January 24, 2020, just one week after Dolittle and Bad Boys for Life. There's also the fact that Ritchie's last two non-Disney outings were The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Yikes. It's a return to Ritchie's crime caper roots, so maybe this will do "alright, alright, alright" at the box office... but we're betting it will bomb.

Run - January 24, 2020

A movie doesn't have to be high-profile to be a bomb. Take Run, for example. What even is this movie? It's scheduled for release on January 24, 2020 and we barely know a thing about it. Seriously. All we know is it stars Sarah Paulson, and it's about a teenage girl who has been raised in total isolation by her mother — and discovers that her mother has been hiding a sinister secret. Honestly, that makes it sound like it could be kinda cool. Shame there's been so little promotion behind it, which would seem to indicate that Lionsgate doesn't see much here and is trying to quietly unload it during one of the winter dump months. Lionsgate has had a very successful 2019, with the highlight being John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, so maybe they just want Run to quietly run away while they plot their next blockbuster.

Sonic the Hedgehog - February 14, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog crashing and burning seems like a lock at this point. But what else can you expect when reactions to the first trailer were so bad? It was such a mess that director Jeff Fowler took to Twitter, saying the filmmakers and studio execs got the message "loud and clear" and pledged to redesign the character to please fans. 

This massive undertaking pushed the film back from its original release date of November 8, 2019 to February 14, 2020, and no doubt added some zeroes to its reported $90 million budget. But given Sonic the Hedgehog's pedigree, it's hard not to wonder whether Paramount might have been better off just punting on the speedy blue guy's first big-screen adventure and taking a loss on a modest dud instead of the massive bomb we're now expecting. With a few notable exceptions, video game adaptations aren't exactly blessed with a great track record when it comes to box office performance. Meanwhile, Sonic star Jim Carrey, while once one of the biggest draws in movies, has been on a downward trend for some time now. Sonic the Hedgehog seems unlikely to fix that. In fact, we expect the fastest thing on land to speed right out of theaters within a few weeks.

Fantasy Island - February 14, 2020

Fantasy Island was a cheesy 1970s TV show starring Ricardo Montalban as the host of a magical island resort. 2020's Fantasy Island is a big-screen update starring Michael Peña, which — based on the trailer — turns the resort into a torture porn paradise a la Saw and Hostel. With Get Out and Halloween to their credit (among numerous other awesome horror movies), the Blumhouse studio imprint has earned our trust. Still, turning a 1970s TV hit into a gory horror movie seems like a stretch. It's difficult to imagine fans of the original show turning out for this — and if they do, they'll be horrified if they show up to the theater without having seen the trailer. Modern horror fans, meanwhile, seem very unlikely to care about (or even be familiar with) the source material. 

Fantasy Island is set for release on February 14, 2020, so maybe it'll satisfy young lovers' (blood)lust by showing pretty people getting hacked to pieces over Valentine's Day weekend. Though with the recent success of supernatural and "smart" horror films like It FollowsA Quiet Place, and Hereditary, we can't help but wonder if there's even an audience for this type of torture-driven horror anymore. Even if there is, will Fantasy Island be the movie that they show up in droves for?

Bloodshot - February 21, 2020

Comic book movies are often big business at the box office, but most of those hits have come from Marvel or DC. On February 21, 2020, Sony is taking a risk on a less well-known character from Valiant Comics named Bloodshot. 

In Bloodshot, a slain soldier seeks revenge after being reanimated with superpowers. So he's kind of a homicidal Captain America, a less Satanic Spawn, or the Punisher if he were, you know, undead. Bloodshot has the ability to heal instantly, and he's seeking vengeance against those who "killed" him before he was re-birthed by an evil corporation, so he's a cross between Wolverine and Robocop too. 

Despite having a pretty effective trailer, there's nothing about Bloodshot that screams "must see." And as summer 2019 taught us, if your blockbuster movie isn't must-see, moviegoers won't bother, especially with so many other entertainment options out there. Sony may be hoping that star Vin Diesel will make up for Bloodshot's lack of name recognition. But despite being 2017's top-grossing actor, Diesel's box office is mostly predicated on playing Dominic in the Fast and the Furious franchise, and Groot the talking baby tree in Guardians of the Galaxy. While Bloodshot looks likely to bomb, Diesel can take solace knowing Fast & Furious 9 will be coming out a few months later.

The New Mutants - April 3, 2020

We predicted that The New Mutants would bomb in 2019. It was delayed into 2020, but everything we said then still holds true.

The New Mutants was originally scheduled to be released on April 13, 2018, but was pushed back to August 2, 2019. Following Disney's purchase of Fox, it was pushed back again, this time to April 3, 2020. It doesn't help that the X-Men franchise is in a bad way following Dark Phoenix, the final film in the previous trilogy and the biggest bomb in the series (not to mention one of the biggest busts of the summer). Even under the best of circumstances, it would be hard for The New Mutants to follow that. At this point, the studio might be better served cutting their losses, dropping The New Mutants onto Disney+ and crossing their fingers. As is, The New Mutants may surpass Dark Phoenix's record as the financial low point in the X-Men franchise. On the bright side? At least nobody is expecting anything different.

Atermis Fowl - May 29, 2020

Disney had one of the most successful years ever in 2019, but Artemis Fowl doesn't feature Jedi Knights, Marvel superheroes, or CG-animated characters from Disney classics. It's a Disney branded live-action film that has more in common with Disney's other live-action movies (pretty much the only red marks in their ledger), including the biggest box office bomb ever. Here's the ignominious lineup: Tommorowland only made $209 million worldwide on a $190 million budget in 2015. A Wrinkle in Time mustered a measly $132 million in 2018. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms made a mere $173 million worldwide against a $120 million budget. Even the once-successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a sinking ship. Artemis Fowl is following in these footsteps — and may do even worse. Disney probably hoped that this story, based on the novel by Eoin Colfer about a young genius and descendent of criminal masterminds who becomes locked in an epic battle against evil fairies, would be its Harry Potter. But The Mouse House moved Artemis Fowl back from its original August 2019 release to a more competitive summer date, so the studio is either feeling bullish or hopes to just get out of Dodge with this one. One way or another, Disney may have to sell a lot of Baby Yoda merchandise to make up for all the money Artemis Fowl seems likely to lose.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife - July 10, 2020

For the second time in four years, moviegoers will be getting a new Ghostbusters movie. Ironic, considering we had to wait 27 years for a new Ghostbusters in 2016. Fans didn't show up for that one, which made a hefty-yet-disappointing $229 million worldwide against a $144 million budget. Numbers like that mean one thing in Hollywood: no sequel. So what gives? 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife isn't a sequel to the 2016 Ghostbusters, but to the 1984 original. While details are sketchy, the new Ghostbusters will be the third film in the original Ghostbusters franchise, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson reprising their roles. Joining their ranks are Paul Rudd, one of the most bankable names in comedy, with Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, taking the reins. 

So why does this look like a bomb? Isn't this what film fans said they wanted? Yes, but remember, film fans are fickle. Thirty-one years will have passed since the last film in this timeline, Ghostbusters II, was released to poor reviews in 1989. Is there still a huge audience there? Maybe. Ghostbusters, like Star Wars and Jurassic Park, is a beloved franchise that's been passed down through the generations... but the same could be said about Terminator and Terminator 2 — and that film's direct sequel, Terminator: Dark Fate, probably killed the franchise. Will Ghostbusters: Afterlife meet a similar fate?

Coming 2 America - August 7, 2020

Eddie Murphy was huge at his peak. In addition to saving Saturday Night Live, he single-handedly went toe-to-toe against Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters in 1984, and wound up topping both in total final grosses. That's nuts... but that was also 35 years ago. Despite receiving some of the best reviews of his career for Dolemite Is My Name in 2019, Eddie Murphy is a long way away from his box office glory days. 

That said, he's hoping to change that with a sequel to one of his biggest box office hits from that era, 1988's Coming to America. In the original, Murphy plays a pampered African prince who goes undercover in Queens to find a wife, to the tune of box office returns of $288 million worldwide. Those would be huge numbers for a comedy today and were even more impressive then. Can Coming 2 America come even close to flying that high? It seems doubtful. For one, there's the time factor. Thirty-two years will have passed since Coming To America graced our screens. There's also the fact that Murphy's box office clout has been trending downwards for quite some time. Prince Akeem's return sadly seems likely to continue that trend.

Dune - December 18, 2020

In 2020, Warner Bros. hopes to mine holiday season box office gold with an adaptation of Frank Herbert's beloved book series Dune

Dune has sold millions of copies and may be the greatest sci-fi novel of all time. But all of that has very little to do with how successful a film adaptation is, particularly during the end of the year. His Dark Materials is a pretty popular fantasy novel series, but The Golden Compass barely broke even in 2007. Mortal Engines sold plenty of books, but the film couldn't sell tickets, and bombed big time. And do we even need to mention John Carter? Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel series John Carter of Mars, John Carter is one of the biggest bombs ever. For every Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Game of Thrones, there are numerous other sci-fi fantasy stories that should have stayed on the printed page. This isn't the first time Dune has been on the big screen, either. David Lynch's Dune died a horrible death in 1984, earning $30 million worldwide against a $40 million budget. New Dune director Denis Villenueve's last movie, Blade Runner 2049tanked in 2017. High-concept sci-fi is always risky — and Dune's box office seems all but certain to lack spice.

The Tomorrow War - December 25, 2020

We haven't seen any promotional materials or trailer for The Tomorrow War (not surprising, as it's more than a year away), but what we do know sounds interesting: in the future, humans are losing a war against evil aliens so they go back in time to recruit soldiers from the past. It also stars Chris Pratt, who's on a run with the Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers franchises. 

With that pedigree, why does this look like a bomb? A few reasons. One, original sci-fi is always a tough sell. There's also the fact that Chris Pratt's last holiday sci-fi release, 2016's Passengers, didn't light the box office on fire, earning $302 million worldwide against a $110 million budget. All that being said, December 2020 is light on surefire action movies and in the absence of a Star Wars film, The Tomorrow War may scratch audiences' itch to watch stuff blow up during the holiday season. If it picks up good word of mouth, this might actually be a hit —  but if not, moviegoers will stay home or go see Steven Spielberg's West Side Story instead.