Starship Troopers

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  • Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
  • Written By: Edward Neumeier
  • Release Date: Nov 7, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris

Box Office Info:
Budget: $105 millionFinanced by: Sony; Disney
Domestic Box Office: $54,814,377Overseas Box Office: $66,400,000

“We succeeded to do this movie, that is so subversive, and politically incorrect [because] Sony changed [leadership] every three, four months. Nobody looked at the rushes because they had no time because they were fired every three, four months.  So we got away with it because nobody saw it.”
–Director Paul Verhoeven

Starship Troopers 1997
Starship Troopers originally flopped worldwide, wasn’t kindly received by critics and has now lived a long and prosperous life in various iterations of home video.

Sony had handled the domestic distribution on director Paul Verhoeven’s early ’90s features, both of which were box office smashes — Total Recall (1990) and Basic Instinct (1992).  In 1993 Sony TriStar began negotiations with Verhoeven on Starship Troopers, but the director had numerous projects in various forms of development and his next picture that went before the cameras was the infamous Showgirls (MGM).  Before Showgirls was released and cemented its place in the pantheon of bad cinema, Sony greenlit Starship Troopers in 1995.

The budget for Starship Troopers was $105 million.  Worried about their risk on the expensive project, Sony brokered a deal with Disney’s Buena Vista International division to split all costs and share all revenue.  Sony TriStar would handle domestic distribution and Disney would have overseas responsibilities.

The head of TriStar Mike Medavoy, who was working to get Verhoeven to commit to Starship Troopers in 1993, was fired in 1994 and what followed at the studio was many short lived regime changes and executive shuffling — Marc Platt, to Mark Canton, to Bob Cooper to John Calley to Amy Pascal and execs were largely unaware of Starship Troopers — until Verhoeven delivered his extremely expensive, gory and absurd satire of jingoism to the new regime.

For its release, Starship Troopers was first dated for the prime summer slot on July 2, 1997 but it was pushed into the fall and opened on November 7.  Sony instead released the far more commercially friendly Men In Black on the July 2 frame.  The picture was given a blockbuster sized marketing push and just like Verhoeven’s R-rated bloodbath RoboCop, this movie also landed a toy line for children from Galoob — though numerous outlets refused to stock the toys.

Starship Troopers bowed against the wide expansion of Bean and the flop Mad City.  Reviews were mixed, leaning toward negative and what was envisioned as a massive tentpole, did open respectably with $22,058,773.  Word of mouth was poor and auds gave the movie a C+ cinemascore and it sank 54.5% the following weekend to $10,034,337.  Starship Troopers continued to post large declines and left theaters with a very disappointing $54,814,377.

Disney did not have much better luck in the overseas market, where it stalled at $66.4 million.  The worldwide total was $121.2M.  Sony/Disney would see returned about $66M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would almost cover only global P&A expenses and the theatrical receipts would not dent the budget.  Following strong video sales, a series of made for the video market sequels were produced.

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