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The Walt Disney Company doesn't really have too much to complain about when it comes to 2013 thus far. Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful was an international success, taking in $491 million globally; Shane Black's Iron Man 3 ranks as the fifth highest grossing film of all time worldwide with its $1.2 billion take; and Dan Scanlon's Monsters University, which is still in theaters, is really cleaning up, already having made $400 million in just two and a half weeks. It's not a large number of titles, but it all adds up to a lot of success.
But then there's Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger, the company's fourth movie of the year and a film that seemed to attract problems every step of the way through development. After years of being stuck in development hell, pieces seemed to fall in place when the Pirates of the Caribbean team of Verbinski, star Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer reunited on the project. A few months after a December 2012 release date was announced, Disney decided to shut the entire production down, showing extreme concern about the movie's proposed bloated $250 million budget. But even after the budget was reduced, the release date was pushed, and production started, the film continued to run into problems. Budget problems came up again, the release date got pushed a second time, and it wound up taking nearly 140 days to shoot the beast. And what did all that trouble lead to? An incredibly underwhelming opening weekend performance during the Independence Day holiday, and what could end up being a $150 million loss for Disney.
That's the figure that has been posted by The Hollywood Reporter, which says that the film not only cost $250 million to make, but spent $175 million in marketing and advertising worldwide. Analysts say that by the end of The Lone Ranger's run it will likely only manage to make $125 million domestically and $150 million overseas - for a total of only $275 million. It will likely be the second triple-digit loss for Disney in as many years, as the company had to deal with the $200 million loss of Andrew Stanton's John Carter in 2012.
THR points out that this failure could have an impact on the studio's relationship with Bruckheimer, which has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years. As the trade notes, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure turned out to be hits for the duo, but their partnership has also yielded titles like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and G-Force. There is no mention of contract status between Bruckheimer and Disney, though they are set to work together again in order to have Pirates of the Caribbean 5 ready for release in summer 2015.
At the very least we can hope that this experience will be a lesson for Hollywood as a whole. The moral of this story? Westerns don't need to cost $250 million.