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Memorial Day Box Office Bombs, From Prince of Persia to Baywatch

If it’s Memorial Day weekend, chances are you’re headed to the movie theater to check out a new blockbuster. Thanks to the original starwars trilogy, the Memorial Day frame has become a go-to launchpad for some of the biggest movies in history. The likes of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Bruce Almighty have all set box office records of one kind or another opening over such a critical weekend. This was even reinforced as late as 2021 when the simultaneous arrival of A Quiet Place: Part II and cruel indicated the ushering in of the first summer moviegoing season in two years.

However, even with so many hit movies that have launched over Memorial Day weekend, that doesn’t mean every high-profile title launched over this timeframe has become an instantaneous box office phenomenon. There’s been plenty of box office duds that have tried and failed to become the next Memorial Day weekend hit. Though each launching over the same holiday weekend, these titles all came up short for a wide variety of reasons ranging from bad marketing to obscure source material and everything else in between. Heed the warning of these seven box office duds: a Memorial Day opening weekend can’t transform any movie into a lucrative hit.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

In the years after Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Walt Disney Pictures was desperate to find another live-action PG-13 action movie franchise that could replicate the box office might of those lucrative swashbucklers. None of these attempts to make lightning strike twice ever took with moviegoers, particularly the 2010 video game adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Hoping to do for video game movies what The Curse of the Black Pearl did for movies based on theme park rides, The Sands of Time failed to be profitable on a massive $200+ million budget and couldn’t even clear $100 million domestically.

Part of the problem here was that The Sands of Time didn’t look as immediately distinctive to moviegoers as BlackPearl did in 2003. While at that time big-budget takes on pirates were rare, The Sands of Time was one of the endless swords-and-sandal adventures in period-era settings that had launched in the post-Gladiator cinematic landscape. There was little to separate this one from so many other costly action movies in the marketplace, while its exorbitant budget was way too much for a blockbuster that wasn’t a sequel. Not even a prolific Memorial Day weekend launchpad could help salvage The Sands of Time from these critical flaws.

RELATED: Bad Weekend: The Last 15 Memorial Day Movies Ranked from Worst to Best


Dwayne Johnson + Zack Efron + the recognizable Baywatch brand name should’ve = box office glory. However, the 2017 comedy Baywatch was a box office non-starter. It didn’t do too terribly overseas with a $119 million haul, but its $58 million domestic gross was way below average for a Dwayne Johnson movie and was only slightly above other Zack Efron comedies with no brand names to give them a boost, like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Needless to say, it also came nowhere close to the box office hauls of the movies that inspired it, the 21 Jump Street titles.

The big difference between JumpStreet and Baywatch may have come down to an R-rating. JumpStreet leading man Jonah Hill got famous with R-rated comedies while channing tatum hadn’t quite built up his brand as an actor to get boxed in, so he could still do R-rated stuff and not alienate his fanbase. Unfortunately, Dwayne Johnson by 2017 had established who his movies resonated most with and that were families. Though he’s been in many box office hits, no Dwayne Johnson movie that’s exceeded $100 million domestically was rated R. As evidenced by other titles like fastermoviegoers just don’t turn up as much when Dwayne Johnson’s doing adults-only entertainment.

Plus, the Baywatch brand isn’t exactly something with lots of genuine nostalgia hovering over it while Efron’s trio of R-rated comedies in 2016 may have burnt audiences out on the High School Musical kid being raunchy. In other words, there were lots of reasons Baywatch sank at the box office despite debuting over Memorial Day weekend.

Super Mario Bros.

By the early 1990s, Mario had already established himself as enough of an icon of gaming to warrant a feature film. One would think that seeing Mario on the big screen would have been tantamount to seeing Spider-Man or The Avengers come to live-action for the first time, but audiences clearly couldn’t have cared less about this production. Opening over Memorial Day weekend in 1993, Super Mario Bros. only managed to gross $20.9 million in North America. For comparison’s sake, Menace II Societywhich opened on the same day, managed to outgross this video game movie despite costing so much less and having no familiar brand name.

Having some of the worst reviews ever for a video game movie didn’t help Super Mario Bros., but what really hurt this movie was competition. Memorial Day weekend 1993 belonged to cliff hangerwhile two weeks later jurassic-park would suck up all the oxygen in the pop-culture marketplace. There was no room for Super Mario Bros., especially given that it was thoroughly rejected by moviegoers and critics alike. The posters were right, Super Mario Bros. was “no game”, but it was also no box office hit.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

In 2010, alice in wonderland joined a then-rare breed of movies that cracked $1 billion worldwide. The film was a massive hit, more than big enough to spawn a sequel. Unfortunately, it took six years for a follow-up to emerge in the form of Alice Through the Looking Glass. Once it hit theaters over Memorial Day 2016, Looking Glass only grossed $299.5 million globally. This included a $77.million sum in North America, noticeably less than what its predecessor amassed in the same territory over its opening weekend in 2010.

What happened here? How did Alice’s box office trajectory get so topsy-turvy? Waiting so long in between installations hurt things significantly, but the bigger problem was how many other family movies were opening in the summer of 2016. Opening one week after The Angry Birds Movie and one week before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, kids and their parents had a lot of options for theatrical entertainment in this timeframe. A long-delayed sequel, one whose story was muddled in the marketing, just wasn’t going to stand out, even with a record-shattering predecessor. This iteration of Wonderland just didn’t have enough appeal to produce two box office hits.

hudson hawk

Bruce Willis had several box office hits throughout the 1990s, including a pair of Die Hard sequels and The Sixth Sensewhich contributed to his legendary status as a movie star. hudson hawk was not one of them. Unleashed onto moviegoers over Memorial Day weekend in 1991, Hudson Hawk failed to take flight financially and only grossed $17.2 million in its global box office run. Even infamous dudes that Willis appeared in like motherless brooklyn and The Cold Light of Day managed to do better than that.

Willis has appeared in some successful comedies over the years (he got his big break on moonlighting after all), but when it comes to theatrical features, comedies aren’t as consistently lucrative as his action fare. The likes of North show that audiences just aren’t as interested in seeing Willis be wacky. So it was with hudson hawk, which didn’t offer much more in its advertising than the promise of seeing Willis navigate lots of slapstick and silly one-liners. Though a remarkable Memorial Day weekend flop, hudson hawk would eventually get overshadowed by Willis’s deluge of 1990s smash hits such as Armageddon.


Disney had a pretty robust summer of 2015 thanks to a pair of Marvel Studios hits and PIXAR’s inside-out wildly overperforming. A rising tide doesn’t always lift all boats, though, and tomorrowland was the one Disney dud of that season. Failing to clear $210 million worldwide despite a $190 million price tag and a massive marketing campaign, tomorrowland was also a sharp about-face from all the box office hits director Brad Bird had commanded in the 21st-century. While The Incredibles, Ratatouilleand Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol all exceeded $200 million domestically alone, tomorrowland didn’t exceed $100 million in North America.

Part of the issue with tomorrowland was a marketing campaign that was a bit too reliant on mystery, especially for a family-skewing movie. Kids don’t need to be spoonfed the entire plot for a feature, but they do need something a little more tangible than the nebulous advertising for tomorrowland up. It was also hard for the film to attract potential adult moviegoers given the presence of projects like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road in the marketplace. All these and other factors ensured that there was not a hefty box office haul waiting in the great big beautiful tomorrow for tomorrowland.

Terminator: Salvation

Believe it or not, before 2009, no terminator sequel had grossed under $150 million. Unfortunately, that came to a sudden halt with Terminator: Salvation, which scored only $125.3 million in North America. Made on a massive $200 million budget, salvation couldn’t even recover its pricetag with overseas grosses, as it still grossed just $365.4 million worldwide. This was all despite salvation launching with a massive marketing campaign stretching back nearly a year before its premiere and a major Memorial Day opening weekend.

Unfortunately, the terminator brand just wasn’t as lucrative in 2009 as it was in 1991, with the mixed reception to Rise of the Machines making people hesitant to seek out more terminator adventures. Plus, May 2009 was packed with other big franchise titles, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine and star trek. salvation was going to need widespread acclaim to stand out in such a stacked landscape and, unfortunately, response from all corners to the project was mixed. Add in the absence of franchise mainstay arnold schwarzeneggerand it becomes apparent why this feature performed way worse than any other terminator sequel released up to that point.

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