View Full Version : Why is Pearl Harbor considered a failure ?

03-10-2003, 12:17 PM
I never saw the movie but have read several threads that refer to PH as being a major failure for Disney. Now,being the movie novice that I am I decided to check out the numbers on Boxofficemojo and found the numbers a little surprising. The movie grossed 198 mil domestically and 450 mil worldwide. Under the "All time" catagories it rates 48th and 38th respectively. What has also caught my eye several times ae the news channel tickers that rank weekly tape rentals & purchases and PH has been #1,2 or 3 several times. I don't know the total cost of PH but assume it is very high but to me it appears PH did turn a profit. Just wonder why it seems to be a benchmark of Disney/Eisner failure on this board.

03-10-2003, 01:20 PM
I might be the only one, but I loved "Pearl Harbor". Every last minute of it. I couldn't believe it bombed. :(

All Aboard
03-10-2003, 01:24 PM
Has the theaters take of the revenue been cut out of these numbers? I'd assume that a movie on which $200m was spent on production and marketing would have to make more than $200m at the box office in order to break even since the AMC's and Regal's of the world hang on to some of that revenue.

03-10-2003, 01:28 PM
I have know idea where cost ends and profit begins in the movie business. I figure the theaters make their $$$ off over priced popcorn and milk duds they bought just after the Korean war ended.

03-10-2003, 03:12 PM
Disney marketed Peal Harbor as if it was the next "Titanic" in term of expected box office success. Naturally, it never came close to fulfill that lofty hype, and that's a big part of why it is generally considered a failure.

Another Voice
03-10-2003, 04:52 PM
It's because the raw box office take tells only a small part of the story.

In general a studio only gets about half the domestic take, a little less than half of the international take. It varies from picture to picture, year to year and so forth but the rule of thumb is probably pretty good. The money the studio doesn't get goes to the theaters, the theater chains, distributors, and all the other people between the movie studio and your theater seat. We'll leave the discussion about how accurate all these box office numbers being released by studios and posted on the Internet are (especially the foreign numbers) for another thread.

The other issue with 'Pearl Harbor' was the enormous cost. The "negative cost" the cost to complete the negative from which copies of the final film are made was over $150 million. At the time it was the most expensive movie ever made by a single studio ('Titanic' was split between Paramount and Fox). Because the movie cost so much, Disney launched a massive marketing campaign to "ensure" its success. At the time too, 'Pearl Harbor' had the greatest "awareness factor" (i.e., people knew that the movie was coming to theaters) of any movie ever tested. But it came at a price; most of the rumors estimate that between $80 and $95 million was spent on the campaign. Disney even spent $5 million to host a premier party onboard an aircraft carrier anchored in Hawaii.

Even bigger costs don't show up in the numbers at all. To keep the initial cost down, many of the "big names" involved with the movie agreed to a low up front salary for "points on the back end". That means that they received only a minimal salary that counted against the $150 million production budget, but get a cut out of the box office take and/or the final "profit" of the film. These agreements are signed with the individuals involved Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Ben Affleck, Randall Wallace and others and are not publicly disclosed. In addition, the film was actually made by Jerry Bruckheimer's production company (Bruckheimer Films). That company also gets a very nice chunk of the money that comes in. There are probably also lots little side deals as well in the good old Hollywood tradition of lining up at the trough.

So on the financial side there's only a limited supply of money flowing to Disney to pay off an awfully lot of expenses. But the accounting is only a small part of the story.

At the time that 'Pearl Harbor' was being put together, Disney was already slipping from its top spot in Hollywood. Eisner thought he had built Disney's reputation on mega hits like 'The Lion King'. But the follow-up animated films underperformed and the hugely profitable live action films like 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' and 'Good Morning Vietnam' were well in the past.

When 'Titanic' came out, it dazzled Eisner. A huge, immensely profitable movie that threw Fox to the top of Hollywood (for a moment anyway). Eisner wanted one too. A single movie that would bring in gobs and gobs of cash, armloads of awards and return him to the King of Hollywood throne.

From the very moment of its inception, every element in 'Pearl Harbor' was designed solely for maximum box office potential. The 'Titanic' model was studied frame by frame. There was going to be plenty of action for the boys, a couple of young hunks for the girls, a diva spun ballad for radio play, an "epic feel" to get all kinds of Oscars when the DVD was ready, a dumbed down story for everyone to enjoy. This project had "money" written all over it. They were flat out positive this was going to be HUGE.

That led Disney executives down two dangerous paths. First, because the picture was such a surefire commercial hit all kinds of costs could be justified to "make the movie better". Example: the Hawaiian shirts worn by the two pilots during the actual attack scene. Custom designed, custom tailored, custom fabric and about $2,500 a pop. For each of the dozen so made. Made for each actor. And their doubles. And we won't even go into the flipping ship rig that has about twenty seconds of screen time. What's a few extra million when we're going to make a billion, right?

Costs ran so high that other pictures were cancelled or scaled back to feed 'Pearl'. But that was okay because 'PH' was going to be a monster hit; the Studio didn't need another hit that year even the following summer. 'Pearl Harbor' would carry everyone through quick and easy. There's no need to repeat the history of what happened to their "sure thing", but the studio cut $600 million from its already weakened production budget immediately after 'Pearl' was released. Far from turning the Studio into a cash cow, Film Entertainment became another struggling division needing a bail out from the parks.

Hollywood accounting ensures that "profit" is whatever you want it be. To the shareholders you can say one thing; to others you can say another. There is no doubt that a lot of people made money from 'Pearl Harbor', but it's not clear that it profited The Walt Disney Company one thin dime.

Bob O
03-10-2003, 04:56 PM
I think it is considered a "bomb" not because of box office but because of the quality of the film. It was partially marketed as a love story and it was awful at that and was also awful as a war movie. it should have been one or the other but stunk at both. And then putting in Dolittle's attack from the carrier at the end was also dumb and not needed!!
The attack on Peartl Harbor was excellant but the rest was just drivel.
As an aside, who would cast Alex Bladwin or Ben Affleck in a war movie needs their heads examined!!!

03-11-2003, 11:21 AM
I might be the only one, but I loved "Pearl Harbor". Every last minute of it.

I really liked it too!

03-11-2003, 08:16 PM
But did not see it until video came out but I did buy it.

A lot of these comments sounds like my old boss. He would project to net 10 mil in profits and when he only nets 9 mil he lost money... poor fellow

03-12-2003, 10:30 AM
So, does anyone know what the realized profit actually was for Disney? AV?

03-12-2003, 12:39 PM
I think it is considered such a bomb not just on a financial level, but rather it's ability to deliver as a prestige picture. It's simply not a good film. Wallace's script reeks of boardroom manovering.

This was Mr. Bay's first foray into, what he would consider anyway, a quality film. After PH's release, Bay quickly signed up for Bad Boys 2. Gotta keep the grosses up :p

Another Voice
03-12-2003, 12:42 PM
Hollywood accounting is set up so that no one knows what the "actually" profit of a movie is. There are "rumors" that Warner Brothers continues to claim that the first 'Batman' movie (the Tim Burton/Jack Nicholson one) is still loosing money. There are so many corporate entanglements, guild and union agreements, contracts, arrangements, studio fees, and other people with a claim to a percentage of the "profit" that all of the studios use multiple sets of books. It's a proud tradition that goes back will into the 1920's (if not even earlier).

03-12-2003, 01:39 PM
So when are the movie studios gonna get hung out to dry Enron style?

It sounds to me that we as Disneyphiles are hanging the studio out to dry for acting like a movie studio.

Which isn't a bad thing, we've grown to expect more from Walt's studio, but still not even the most Ardent Eisner Sycophant would dare to claim he isn't a hollywood man.

Hey AV, the wife and I are thinking of Moving to LA (If we can find jobs) If we decide to get an apartment in Burbank, can we use such creative accounting practices too? It would really help my bottom line.

03-12-2003, 07:54 PM
The 'Titanic' model was studied frame by frame. There was going to be plenty of action for the boys, a couple of young hunks for the girls, a diva spun ballad for radio play, an "epic feel" to get all kinds of Oscars when the DVD was ready, a dumbed down story for everyone to enjoy. This project had "money" written all over it. They were flat out positive this was going to be HUGE.

This is where they really missed it! The leading male was never going to bring in the same draw. Titanic was seen over and over again by an audience who fell in love with the actors, the ambience; the glamour and the reality of the circumstance. For the younger person, it was probably the first time they had seen such a picture on the big screen and they kept going back.

Pearl Harbor was a war movie which will bring a disconnect no matter how it is marketed.

The general audience was intrigued by the story of titanic - a luxury liner whose maiden voyage becomes its last - complete with a healthy dose of class warfare. Add an untapped, rising young leading male and all this film needed to do was be good enough to carry itself.

Pearl Harbor is a different story whose memory is replayed every December 7. There is a familiarity about this event which tributes our veterans. How could you possibly sell it as a romantic epic when the country does not dedicate its respect this way.

So the model was studied, large numbers appeared on paper and everyone developed a grandious attitude. I cannot even imagine what the environment must have been like when the egos were at their mightiest.