Out To Sea

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  • Directed By: Martha Coolidge
  • Written By: Robert Nelson Jacobs
  • Release Date: July 4, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: FOX
  • Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dyan Cannon, Elaine Stritch

Box Office Info:
Budget: $33 millionFinanced by: FOX
Domestic Gross: $29,022,252Overseas Gross: $1,694,649

out to sea 1997
Out To Sea was the ninth on screen pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, which first began back in 1966 in Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie.  After Grumpy Old Men (1993) turned into a surprise smash hit that made both actors in-demand again, they pumped out the slightly more financially successful sequel Grumpier Old Men (1995) and then set up Out To Sea as their next project.  Each were given a big $5M payday to topline Out To Sea and they were expected to land $6M for Grumpiest Old Men, which the actors were set to segue into after Sea.

Jack Lemmon had first billing on the studio comedy My Fellow Americans (1996) which was released by Warner Bros, but after that picture flopped, WB put Grumpiest Old Men into turnaround.  There were discussions about deferring fees to resurrect Grumpiest, but the pair went off to helm the less expensive Odd Couple II (1998) for Paramount.  That sequel bombed and was sadly their last movie together.

The budget for Out To Sea was $33 million and fully financed by FOX.   After the majority of the production was shot, there was five shooting days on an actual cruise ship where FOX had reserved 150 rooms for cast and crew — plus expenses to close off part of the boat to film.  Shortly before the cruise shoot, Lemmon became an honoree for the Kennedy Center Award for Life, which had its reception at the White House and FOX decided to cancel the cruise reservations so he could attend.  They booked another cruise one week later and the cancelation and rebooking costs were in the millions.  Producer John Davis said, “We all pitched in, putting the movie on hiatus for a week. We felt the tribute to Jack meant more, and decided to stand down to another ship. It is expensive, but the studio graciously is taking care of all the costs.”

Out To Sea was originally expected to open over the Christmas frame in 1997, since both Grumpy Old Men pictures bowed over the holiday, but the movie was moved to the Memorial Day frame.  Then as Titanic was falling far behind schedule and was not completed in time for its July 4th date, FOX moved Out To Sea to the Independence Day frame — as if audiences were demanding a boat related movie that weekend.  Funny enough, FOX did release an expensive boat film three weeks earlier, the fiasco Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Out To Sea opened as counter-programming for older auds to the tentpole Men In Black and the kids pic Wild America also bowed.  Reviews were mixed and it opened on the low end of estimates at $5,887,675 — placing #6 for the weekend led by Men In Black.  The Grumpy Old Men movies had also opened with low grosses (the sequel opened with $7M) and had legged out to $70M and both the studio and theaters expected older audiences to trickle in over the upcoming weeks.  Out To Sea fell a modest 29.4% to $4,155,935 in its second frame and dipped 23.7% to $3,170,814 in its third session.  The pic then fell 48% to $1,648,223 ending its chance at breaking out and the domestic run closed with a disappointing $29,022,252.

FOX gave Out To Sea a miniscule theatrical rollout overseas, where it pulled in $1.6M.  The worldwide cume was $30.7M.  FOX would see returned about $16.8M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — a bit below P&A expenses and the theatrical receipts would not dent the budget.  After ancillary sales, the movie was likely a wash for the studio.

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