Mortal Engine Loses Universal $150 Million At The B.O., The Biggest Flop Of The Year

Peter Jackson’s name doesn’t hold weight like it used to. The ambitious and very expensive Mortal Engines film debuted in local cinemas this weekend to a loud thud. The film had been predicted to be D.O.A., a film that might have been better suited in the month of January or February. Instead, it has been lost in the shuffle of other more well known and more anticipated films this holiday season.

Like Robin Hood, another costly flop, Engines failed to find its audience. The YA craze isn’t as strong as it used to be during its height of popularity with such films as Twilight and Hunger Games. Most of this year’s box office flops have been mid-budget releases like “Annihilation” and “The Hurricane Heist,” rather than blockbusters with $100 million-plus budgets like 2017’s “Ghost in the Shell.” “Robin Hood” was the closest to that budget mark with a reported budget of around $97 million. Engines opened at a meager 7.5 Million dollar debut at the box office. 

“Mortal Engines” had a budget of at least $100 million, with some reports estimating it as much as $150 million. While Universal doesn’t disclose budget figures, it’s possible that the studio might not make back its production costs, let alone that of its marketing campaign. Overseas figures haven’t been good either for “Mortal Engines,” with an international launch of around $34 million and a global start of $42.3 million. Warner Bros.’ “Aquaman” has made it extremely difficult for this film to get a foothold, as the DC film’s global total this weekend nearly tripled that of “Mortal Engines” with $126 million grossed and a $261 million in total.

It’s just hard for an original Science Fiction film to find any traction unless it is based off a comic book or Star Wars related. I mean, what was the last original sci-fi film to be a cultutal phenomenon? Avatar? But it also didn’t help that the film had a very poor marketing plan and no star power to speak of. Engines relied too heavily on Peter Jackson’s name as a producer of the film. A name that hasn’t been relevant since the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But hey, Universal may be ending the year on a sour note, but they have had a great year besides the Mortal Engines blunder. 
The studio has grossed around $1.7 billion at the domestic box office this year, with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” ($416.7 million)” “The Grinch” ($239.2 million) and “Halloween” ($159.2 million) as the lead grossers. While the studio has built its success on a stable of franchises, it has also released a series of original horror hits through its partnership with Blumhouse, including the 2017 hit “Get Out,” which won Jordan Peele this year’s Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. That approach will continue next year when Universal releases Peele’s next horror title, “Us,” in March.