A Simple Wish

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  • Directed By: Michael Ritchie
  • Written By: Jeff Rothberg
  • Release Date: July 11, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Martin Short, Mara Wilson, Kathleen Turner

Box Office Info:
Budget: $28 millionFinanced by: Universal
Domestic Box Office: $8,345,056Overseas Box Office: N/A

a simple wish 1997

A Simple Wish began development when The Bubble Factory was launched.  Here’s a brief look back at The Bubble Factory.  The company was founded by Sid Sheinberg, who had run MCA Inc., (parent corp of Universal).  In 1990 MCA was acquired for $6.59 billion by the Japanese conglomerate Matsushita.  Then in 1995, the Canadian liquor company Seagram bought 80% of MCA for $5.7 billion and after 34 years of running MCA, Sheinberg’s reign ended.  He was given a seat on Seagram’s board and the giant entity agreed to fully finance his new production company The Bubble Factory.  Sheinberg was given full autonomy to greenlight 3 to 4 movies per year for 5 years with budgets between $35M and $40M and without approval from Universal.  It was widely known that the reason he was given such a fantastic production deal was his close relationship with Steven Spielberg, who made it very clear that as long as Universal kept Sheinberg in-house, he would continue to make films for the studio.  Universal did not want the arrangement with The Bubble Factory, but they were desperate for Spielberg to direct The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the deal with Sheinberg was launched.

The Bubble Factory was a disaster that quickly churned out a series of lousy movies that all flopped.  Much of their output was turning old TV programs into features and the first movie out of the gate was the bomb Flipper (1996).  Next up was That Old Feeling and two weeks later was the trainwreck McHale’s Navy.  At this point Spielberg had finished The Lost World, but he went off to focus on his fledgling company DreamWorks and had no other projects lined up to direct at Universal.  Just two months after the McHale’s Navy & That Old Feeling embarrassment, Universal wrote Sheinberg a massive check for an undisclosed amount and ended their relationship with The Bubble Factory.  Universal had two more Bubble Factory flops to waste money and time on — A Simple Wish set for July 11 and For Richer or Poorer dated for December.

The budget for A Simple Wish was $28 million and it bowed against Contact and landed poor reviews.  The only other children’s movie that was in theaters was Disney’s Hercules and the low budget flop Wild America — but numerous family films were opening in the upcoming weeks.  The following weekend George of the Jungle opened; the next frame saw Good Burger; then Air Bud; and then Free Willy 3: The Rescue.

Buzz was non-existent and A Simple Wish was dead on arrival with $2,732,880 — placing #9 for the weekend led by the holdover Men In Black.  It sank 58% to $1,146,820 in its second frame and then plummeted 65% to $400,330 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with only $8,345,056.  Universal would see returned about $4.5M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below marketing expenses and the theatrical receipts would not dent the budget.

In their quarter financial report Universal’s parent corp Seagram announced unspecified, but large write-downs on A Simple Wish, Kull the Conqueror and Leave It to Beaver, all of which offset the massive profits from The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Overseas numbers are not available.

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