Assessing The ‘Last Christmas’ Damage: Hollywood’s Biggest Holiday Box Office Bombs

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – NOVEMBER 11, 2019: Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke attend the UK film … [+] premiere of ‘Last Christmas’ at the BFI Southbank on 11 November 2019 in London, England.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Even after all the hype, the Emilia Clarke bump and the cryptic, viral trailer, the holiday season’s first big Christmas movie couldn’t quite hit the mark. Coming in fourth place at the box office last weekend, Last Christmas only managed to pull in $11.4 million.

This past weekend wasn’t much better with $6.5 million, bringing the film’s ten-day total to $22.4 million. That’s a pretty disappointing gross from 3,400 theaters—which is actually the 10th-widest Christmas release in the U.S. ever. Combined with the film’s overseas revenue, Last Christmas’s nearly two-week total only stands at $37.1 million.

And while that total is undoubtedly disappointing for Universal Pictures, the film can’t exactly be classified as a “bomb.” With a $25 million budget, Last Christmas has already more than made up the cost of its production. And while that budget doesn’t include marketing, it still seems as though Last Christmas will end its run in the green.

And while the Last Christmas’s to-date revenue is disheartening considerings its theater count, it’s nowhere near the worst outing for Hollywood. Its run is actually quite similar to, say, The Night Before, which earned $52.4 million back in 2015 on a $25 million budget. And Last Christmas is doing much better than The Preacher’s Wife, which pulled in $48.1 million on a $40 million budget.

In fact, just to show how good Last Christmas has it right now, here are five notable holiday box office bombs that suffered huge losses.

Might as well start with the big one. Back in 1998, hot off the heels of Michael Keaton’s success in the 1990s with movies like Jackie Brown, The Paper and the Batman films, Jack Frost aimed to take advantage of the holiday movie market.

Unfortunately, thanks to a deal with the Jim Henson Creature Shop, it took $85 million to make the film. Keaton himself was only in a small of the movie, while he spent the rest of it voicing an animatronic snowman.

The result was a disaster, resulting in a $7.1 million opening weekend and a $34.6 U.S. lifetime run. The film didn’t even play in foreign markets.

After such a promising start, Ben Affleck had a notably tough go of things in the early 2000s. His career was plagued by critically-slammed films like Daredevil, Jersey Girl and Paycheck. And while Gigli took the cake for box office bombs, Surviving Christmas was a close second.

The holiday flick starring Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate and Catherine O’Hara only managed to pull in $4.4 million on opening weekend…on a $45 million budget. By Week 4, the movie’s theater count had dropped from 2,750 to just 431.

The film would only go on to accrue $14.6 million over the course of its run, representing a $30.4 million loss.

This is the stuff of Christmas movie lore. While not super well known by casual moviegoers, Santa Claus: The Movie was a notable financial failure back in 1985. Perhaps the most straightforward depiction of Santa from a studio film, Santa Claus: The Movie attempted to win people over by exploring the Santa mythology and answering questions about his reindeer and elves.

Which…didn’t go well. On opening weekend, the film only made $5.6 million. In total, it would only accrue $23.7 million, representing a $26.3 million loss.

Another case where a studio believed it could capitalize on an upcoming star with a holiday film—and, per usual, it went terribly. I’ll Be Home for Christmas starred Home Improvement star Jonathan Taylor Thomas back in 1998 and was banking on making up its $30 million budget at the box office.

As you could have guessed, Disney didn’t pull it off. The movie only made $3.9 million on opening weekend. After dropping from 1,743 theaters to just 344 between Weeks 3 and 4, I’ll Be Home for Christmas would only go on to make $12.2 million in total.

It might have seemed promising on the surface. Loaded with notable actors like Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Terrence Howard and Queen Latifah, the family comedy-fantasy The Perfect Holiday was poised for success.

Unfortunately, the film didn’t have the legs to make a dent in the box office. The film would only make $2.3 million on opening weekend. By its third weekend, The Perfect Holiday would drop from 1,307 theaters to just 331. And by the end of its run, the Christmas movie only accrued $5.8 million.

I co-founded Colossus, where we explore the movies that make you think. I host a podcast called Your Brain on Film, where I analyze movies. I also host a podcast calle

Post time: Nov-27-2019