The movie business sure is an interesting beast. After all, it's hard not to be intrigued watching big-name studios place multimillion-dollar bets on producers, directors, actors and actresses, all in the name of building a creative entertainment spectacle for the masses to watch on the big screen.
Of course, the payoff can be enormous, and not only during the films' theatrical runs, but also down the road with merchandising, DVD and digital-media sales, and, if they do it right, the occasional ridiculously profitable sequel.
But all too often, big-budget movies either don't yield much fruit or, even worse, cost the businesses behind them huge amounts of money.
So with summer nearly halfway through, let's look at five of the biggest box-office flops the sunny season has had to offer so far.
First up, the folks at Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal Studios hung their heads two weeks ago, after their comics-based movie R.I.P.D. (for "Rest In Peace Department") became one of several victims of the surprisingly popular low-budget horror film The Conjuring. In all, R.I.P.D was the seventh most popular film during its first three days, managing to pull in just $12.7 million domestically.
It also didn't help when R.I.P.D. received a negative C+ CinemaScore, as critics and audiences alike tore it apart, but that wouldn't have hurt Comcast's feelings nearly as bad had the movie not had a gargantuan production budget of $130 million.
Unsurprisingly, though the supernatural police flick still has plenty of time left in its theatrical run, its $40.8 million worldwide take so far (which includes a $28.1 million domestic showing) isn't particularly encouraging, as ticket sales tend to quickly taper off.
2. Red 2
While Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF-A) had hoped Red 2 -- also released two weeks ago -- would be able to duplicate the success of its predecessor, it simply ended up becoming yet another victim of The Conjuring.
I suppose you can't blame them for trying, though. Back in 2010, the original Red brought in $199 million worldwide on a production budget of just $58 million.
The thing is, this time around they spent $84 million, or nearly 45% more, to produce Red 2.
And what did they get for all that extra money? A $57 million worldwide take so far, including a subpar $18 million domestic opening weekend.
Of course, there may still be hope yet for Red 2 to become profitable when all is said and done, but I'm certainly not holding my breath.
3. The Lone Ranger
I wrote early last month about the dismal opening weekend of Disney's (NYSE:DIS) The Lone Ranger. At the time, however, the blame appeared to lie with Comcast, whose comparatively low-budget Despicable Me 2 absolutely crushed every family-friendly challenger in its path.
However, here we are 30 days later, and The Lone Ranger has still only mustered up $164.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, including $86.1 million domestically.
That may sound good on the surface, but don't let those big numbers fool you: Disney spent $215 million to make The Lone Ranger and reportedly spent another $100 million in marketing to garner excitement leading up to the release.
4. White House Down
Speaking of huge budgets, Sony (NYSE:SNE) Pictures probably wishes it hadn't forked out $150 million to make White House Down. In the five weeks since its launch, the action-packed thriller has made just $116.7 million across the globe, including a $71.1 million domestic gross so far.
Then again, Willis was probably busy making Red 2 when they were casting White House Down -- so there's that.
5. The Internship
Finally, I'm offering The Internship as the fifth biggest flop so far at the box office this summer.
And why is that? After all, this surprisingly accurate look at life as a Google intern cost News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) subsidiary 20th Century Fox just $58 million to make, and it has taken in a gross of $74.2 worldwide, including $44 million here in the United States.
But remember, thanks to other expenses such as marketing and profit-sharing agreements with the movie theaters themselves, having a box-office gross that exceeds the production budget still doesn't necessarily translate dollar-for-dollar to 20th Century Fox's bottom line.
What's more, you can bet News Corp. had much bigger things in mind for The Internship, considering the comedy came from director Shawn Levy, who previously delivered several other smash successes for the studio. Most notably, that list includes the two Night at the Museum films, which grossed a collective $987.6 million worldwide.
These five films certainly weren't the only box-office duds this summer, and you can bet they won't be the last. That said, I do think they're a pretty good representation of what's gone wrong for studios so far since the season began.
Fool contributor Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, Google, Netflix, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.