CRIMINAL LAW (1988) — Hemdale Film mostly financed the critically maligned Criminal Law, with Northwood Communications putting up early development costs — which they later became one of dozens of companies to sue Hemdale for $735,000. Though the budget has not been reported, Hemdale opened the film in the US in 1,166 theaters to a dead on arrival $2,636,091 coming in 4th for the weekend, which was led by Pet Sematary in its second weekend. Criminal Law ended its run with a poor $9,974,446 and became one of the many reasons Hemdale would go into bankruptcy the following year.
FIRE BIRDS (1990) — Fire Birds was co-financed by Disney’s Touchstone and Nova International Films for $22 million and the film was written off as a Top Gun knockoff and opened in the US with a poor $6,358,761 and quickly bombed out of theaters with $14,760,451. Nova International Films has not financed another film after Fire Birds tanked and British director David Green’s career was derailed after the expensive Fire Birds flopped.
ROBOT JOX (1990) — The 1990 Stuart Gordon directed flop Robot Jox was financed by Charles Band’s Empire Pictures for what was going to be their most expensive project at over $7 million. Filming began in early 1987 and Robot Jox would sit on the shelf until 1990 due to Empire Pictures going through bankruptcy. The french mega bank Crédit Lyonnais, which was known throughout the 80’s as the bank always ready to write checks to Hollywood, but with shady caveats, Empire Pictures fell victim to defaulting on a $26 million loan and the company’s library was sold off to the short lived Epic Productions. Triumph Films, which is a Sony label usually aimed at lower tier productions and the direct to video market, released Robot Jox with little enthusiasm or marketing and opened the film in 333 theaters to a terrible $464,441 opening weekend. The long shelved film, which was aimed at the family market, also opened when there was a glut of family fare at the box office. Home Alone was in its second weekend, sucking the air out of the marketplace and the successful Three Men and a Little Lady opened the same day as Robot Jox as well. A cheap look, little marketing, poor reviews and a crowded market gave little hope for any theatrical prospects for the film and Robot Jox ended its brief theatrical run with just $1,272,977. The film was released to the video market in most overseas territories.
STREET SMART (1987) — This Christopher Reeve pet project was financed by The Cannon Group, under the condition that Reeve sign onto Superman IV, which Cannon purchased the sequel rights. The budget was publicized at $7 million, but Reeve has said the picture came in closer to $5 million after penny pinching from Cannon. Reeve was very vocal about his displeasure with Cannon, since the company dumped the well received film with weak marketing. Reeve was also critical of Cannon during the production when Cannon decided to bypass NY union crews, for cheap non-union labor and despite huge picketing of the production, Reeve was contractually forced to cross picket lines due to a no-strike clause. Reeve apparently received no support from Cannon and promoted the film on his own and Cannon opened Street Smart in 207 theaters to a poor $325,835 with a $1,574 per screen average. Street Smart quietly closed its run with only $1,119,112.
THE LOVERS (2015) — Formally known as Singularity, this Roland Joffe directed film was in development since the 90’s and began filming in 2010 and was plagued by financial problems that derailed the film for years. The Lovers was financed by the Belgian company Corsan, which covered $13.65m of the expenses through a fund they operate called Film Finance IV and set up numerous creditors to front the costs of the estimated $28m budget, with some estimates over $35m. The film was apparently poorly produced and budgeted and the production quickly saw money dry up and crew not paid, which prompted shut downs and eventually led to $15.13m being owed to the creditors. The multi-continent production was largely filmed in Australia and the footage was seized since the creditors were not paid and the film would not be eligible for millions in Australian rebates if the production could not complete the film — which was 90% finished. The film languished for about a year and the creditors were finally paid off and Corsan invested an estimated additional $1.5m to complete the film. Corsan finally put the troubled Singularity onto the market at Cannes in 2014 and renamed it The Lovers and IFC picked up US rights for a VOD release and IFC released the film at their IFC Center in NYC and did not report its box office numbers.
VIRTUOSITY (1995) — Directed by Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man), the 1990’s go-to-guy for virtual reality schlock, Virtuosity was mostly financed by Paramount for $30 million and had some equity from Brett Leonard’s production company L-Squared Entertainment. Virtuosity opened in the US to a weak $8,309,869 coming in 4th for the weekend, behind Waterworld in its second weekend and slightly ahead another film with cyber shenanigans The Net, in its second weekend. Virtuosity quickly left theaters with $24,047,675 and a little over a decade later, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe had far more critical and commercial success with their second pairing in American Gangster. The film went straight to video in many overseas markets and only the Australian gross of AUD 1,154,000 has been reported.