Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Is The Fifth Estate the year’s biggest flop?

An article in Forbes magazine argues that the WikiLeaks drama may have been the most financially disappointing release of 2013.

Wed, Nov 27, 2013, 15:56


It all depends who is asking the question. By some reckoning, The Lone Ranger grabs that title. But as this article in Forbes explains — and we could have told you — all those sky-is-falling pieces in the trade papers tend to underestimate the sums coming in from overseas territories. When you add in those takings, the really high-profile “flops” — Lone Ranger, Elysium, Pacific Rim — don’t look nearly so disastrous.

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Forbes complied the list by ranking films in reverse order of their percentage return on investment. By that reckoning, Bill Condon’s take on the rise and fall of Julian Assange could be the year’s most financially disappointing release. It shouldn’t have been that way. We were all told that Benedict Cumberbatch was on the way up. The story is still alive.  Condon did a good job on Kinsey and the last two Twilight movies. But The Fifth Estate is the sort of film that needs strong reviews. Unfortunately for the team, few critics raved and the film (cliché ahoy) failed to find an audience. Mr Assange, who was violently opposed to the project, will be absolutely delighted to hear of its underperformance.

Where we question Forbes’s figures is in the decision not to include marketing costs. Such additional expenses can double the actual cost of a production. So, yes, Forbes’s argument that The Fifth Estate only registered a 21 percent return on investment might be understating the film’s poor performance. More significantly, a chart that included those figures would probably drag a few of those more high-profile disasters into the top ten. Those flicks really fork out for marketing. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s the Forbes list:


1. Fifth Estate – 21% return

2. Bullet to the Head – 36% return

3. Paranoia – 39% return

4. Parker – 49% return

5. Broken City – 54% return

6. Battle of the Year – 55% return

7. Getaway – 58% return

8. Peeples – 60% return

9. RIPD – 60% return

10. The Big Wedding – 63% return