x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Required reading: Hollywood's flops

Will Smith, who can usually be relied upon to spin box office gold, is facing a massive critical flop with his latest film, After Earth. Here's a look at the books to read to get yourself up to speed on previous monumental Hollywood flops.

Will Smith has produced 2013's biggest Hollywood flop with After Earth. From The Wall Street Journal, which asked: "Is After Earth the worst film ever made?" to the hip British film magazine Little White Lies,which said: "After Earth us an unqualified disaster in every sense", there is a rare kind of critical consensus around the idea that After Earth is pretty bad. Audiences seem to agree, too: the film brought in only US$27 million (Dh99m) in its opening weekend, putting it in third place behind Fast and Furious 6 and Now You See Me. To compound matters, the film stars not only Smith but his 14-year-old son Jaden, which means that Smith has subjected his own progeny to a severe critical panning. Put it all together and After Earth amounts to a flop of epic proportions. Enough, surely, to ask: just what makes the difference between a huge hit and a flop, anyway?


Ÿ Turn to Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flopsby John Parish to learn from some of the most infamous mistakes that Tinseltown has ever made. Such as the infamous The Adventures of Pluto Nash, a 2002 Eddie Murphy vehicle that grossed just $7m on a budget of $100m. Or the ill-fated 1980 western Heaven's Gate, which killed the previously ascendant career of director Michael Cimino and almost sent the studio United Artists the same way.


Ÿ So much for failure; how does Hollywood manufacture success? In The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood, Edward Epstein exposes the competition between the major studios for big stars and box-office hits (it's common for a studio to spend upwards of $50m on a single ad campaign for a big movie), as well as the financial importance of less visible matters, such as sales to cable TV stations and foreign territories. When you've spent $150m, you'll take every dollar you can get.


Ÿ Has all this inspired you to try your hand at creating your own blockbuster? Then turn to the screenwriter's bible Robert McKee's Story. The book, says McKee, is all about struggle and the difference between our hopes and reality. A lesson that Will Smith is surely reflecting upon right now.

* David Mattin