Why Do Movies Bomb at the Box Office? — The Secret to Box Office Success


In 1878 the first experimental film, The Horse in Motion, was born. Followed by, The Garden Scene directed by French inventor Louis Le Prince. It lasted a whopping 2.11 seconds. Those production participants of yesteryear could not have imaged that one hundred years later film would be a global pastime enjoyed by billions. Entertainment has also become one of the leading profitable industries that actually grows during a recession.

Yet an enigma in the world of entertainment that plagues everyone from the consumer to the A List movie star still exists. And it is that of why movies sometimes bomb at the box office.

The Wrong Cast

Have you ever sat in a movie theater watching the performance of a particular artist whose acting is so bad that you wonder to yourself, how did that guy ever make it?! You probably go home and then research if the movie achieved box office success. And? You were right. The movie tanked hard. Hence validating the theory of some actors just being, Box Office Poison. “Making it in Hollywood” is really all about who you know. Sometimes mediocre actors slip through the cracks and are given opportunities without executives pondering the repercussions of casting someone who is just wrong for the picture or perhaps is not well received by foreign audiences. And then again sometimes the producers do not have any control over who is cast. The actor just happened to know the right person!

Another major component of casting which can affect box office success is the consideration of pulling together a star ensemble. There is a reason why Star Wars worked. Ocean’s Eleven. Steel Magnolias. Guardians of the Galaxy. The list goes on. The producers, casting directors, and directors all understood the importance of great cast ensembles. Some of these creators spend months watching audition tapes and conducting table reads to evaluate who has the best synergy to make up a great ensemble cast.

Release Date

Release dates in Hollywood are so important. Sometimes a bad release date can sink a great film. For example, Jason Reitman’s Labor Day. That was a great movie with two bankable stars. Why did it under perform at the Box Office? Someone thought it was a good idea to release it in January. Unfortunately, that movie is considered one of the best movies with the worst wide openings. Thanks for dropping the ball, Paramount.

What are considered good release dates? Well that is a tricky question. Usually one of two large budget studio films that are released on the same weekend, will tank. However, some lower budget films do have a fighting chance and actually do well by piggybacking the larger movies. Usually holidays and Summer months are the best times to release a film.

The Oversight of Power in Foreign Markets

This is probably my favorite problem to solve for filmmakers who approach my company for advice and consultation. In Hollywood one of the biggest mistakes made, especially by independent filmmakers, is not identifying a market before their film is produced. They will burn through precious capital making a movie and not even know if it has any value at all in foreign markets. In every other industry smart, savvy business professionals identify their market before turning an idea into a service or product. Not just the domestic market, but more importantly, checking its worth on a global scale. Coming from the tech industry, this very problem was the reason why I started my company, Legacy Entertainment Partners, as a consultancy firm before a production company. There was and still is a need for filmmakers to engage foreign content distribution companies. If my filmmaker clients were not going to make the investment of establishing relationships with foreign content buyers, then I was. Today my company makes deals with over 90 countries that buy content. Coming in through the studio system in entertainment, it was easy for me to see one of the biggest reasons why films fail at the box office; they simply do not get the traction much less interest, needed in foreign territories. No foreign sales? No press. No profits.