It's official: The first day of autumn was last Tuesday, so the summer of 2014 is finally over. Perhaps more importantly for investors, that also means it's time to look back on the lucrative summer box office season to see how the entertainment industry's often-massive investments fared.
Reported production budgets for today's blockbuster-hopefuls can range anywhere from a "just" a few million dollars to hundreds of millions, but keep in mind those figures typically don't include additional marketing spend for P&A (prints & advertising), or movie theaters' cuts along the way. Studios don't often release specific P&A figures, which can occasionally rival the actual production cost of a film.
But as a general rule of thumb, we can estimate it takes a global box office gross of roughly twice any given movie's production budget for the underlying company to either break even or turn a modest profit. With this in mind, let's take a look at five of this summer's biggest movies which simply didn't live up -- at least financially -- to investors' lofty expectations:
1. Edge of Tomorrow
When Time Warner (NYSE:TWX.DL) last reported earnings in August, they didn't even mention the June 6 launch of Edge of Tomorrow -- a curious omission considering it sports a solid 90% Fresh rating from critics over at Rotten Tomatoes, and received a decent B+ CinemaScore from polled audiences. But it makes sense when you note the $178 million sci-fi epic collected a measly $100.2 million in box office receipts domestically. In short, while those who actually went seemed to enjoy Edge of Tomorrow, getting them there in the first place proved harder than it should have been for Warner Bros.
In fact, the only thing preventing Edge of Tomorrow from being dubbed a total failure was Tom Cruise's ability to draw international movie-goers, who miraculously added another $269 million to comprise a high 72.9% of the film's total. When all was said and done, and as Time Warner's most expensive film so far this year, that Edge of Tomorrow only barely doubled its production budget was a huge letdown for investors.
2. Jersey Boys
Also notably absent from Time Warner's last call was the the June 20 launch of Clint Eastwood's rendition of Jersey Boys. Likely suffering from a combination of poor critics' reviews and a narrow target audience given its "R" rating, the Broadway remake tallied only $59.2 million in worldwide box office receipts. And unlike Edge of Tomorrow, Jersey Boys didn't have Tom Cruise on its side as nearly 80% of that total came from domestic viewers.
But there was a silver lining: Jersey Boys "only" cost around $40 million to produce, so is unlikely to put a significant dent in Time Warner's coffers. In the meantime, Time Warner investors can also rest easy knowing Warner Bros. has enjoyed the success of Godzilla and The LEGO Movie so far this year, both of which have performed exceptionally well in their own rights.
3. Million Dollar Arm
Time Warner wasn't the only company to suffer box office disappointment this summer. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) may also be seeing red from its $25 million sports drama, Million Dollar Arm, which has only accumulated $38.3 million globally in the 14 weeks since its May 16 debut.
That said, Million Dollar Arm is still looking forward to launching in Japan and Spain later this month, so could close the gap with a strong showing there. But considering U.S. audiences have comprised an overwhelming 95% of overall sales so far with the majority of its overseas launches complete, I wouldn't hold my breath for Million Dollar Arm to enter the realm of profitability anytime soon.
Like Jersey Boys to Time Warner, however, this is a small misfire for the House of Mouse -- especially since this time last year Disney investors were fearing huge writedowns given the staggering underperformance of its $215 million bet on The Lone Ranger.
4. A Million Ways to Die in the West
Next, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal can't be too thrilled about forking out $40 million to produce Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West. Though the quirky western comedy did enjoy a decent $16.8 million weekend start in late-May, it faded fast amid largely negative reviews, and ultimately gathered just $86 million in total worldwide sales.
To Comcast's credit, that does mean it likely turned a small profit on the flick. But you can bet they had much higher hopes for A Million Ways to Die in the West after Seth MacFarlane's last effort in 2012 with Ted yielded an amazing $549.4 million global box office total -- all on a production budget of just $50 million.
5. Hercules (2014)
Finally, Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIAB) Paramount teamed up with MGM to place a $100 million bet on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Hercules. Though Viacom management noted in their own respective quarterly call last month that Hercules was off to a strong start with its $29.8 million weekend debut in July, it quickly lost its momentum amid mixed reviews and is currently adding minuscule amounts each weekend to its $219 million total.
Once again, this means Viacom and MGM may have made a little money along the way, but it's a far cry from the smashing success Viacom management suggested it could be. Back in May, they even named Hercules as a "summer tent-pole release" alongside the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,http://seekingalpha.com/article/2182453-viacom-management-discusses-q2-2014-results-earnings-call-transcript which just crossed $333 million after seven weekends, and Transformers: Age of Extinction, which recently smashed through the $1 billion mark. Things could have been much worse for Hercules in the end. But at this point, it's certainly doesn't seem capable of adding much in the way of shareholder value.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.