The Postman

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  • Directed By: Kevin Costner
  • Written By: Eric Roth, Brian Helgeland
  • Release Date: December 25, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams

Box Office Info:
Budget: $80 millionFinanced by: Warner Bros
Domestic Box Office: $17,626,234Overseas Box Office: $9,400,000

the postman 1997
The Postman novel was optioned by Steve Tisch and Wendy Finerman in 1985.  Throughout the years, Michael Keaton and Robin Williams were circling the project and numerous directors were interested, including Barry Levinson, Richard Donner, Jan De Bont and Ron Howard.  After Steve Tisch and Wendy Finerman won an Oscar for producing Forrest Gump (1994), they began to move forward with The Postman as their next picture and Tom Hanks was expected to star.

Kevin Costner decided to take control over the project and Warner Bros gave free reins to the star to helm this self indulgent trainwreck.  After Costner committed to The Postman, Wendy Finerman was removed from the production.  WB gave her a settlement and no credit attached to the film — which probably became a positive thing for her resume.  Costner had the screenplay rewritten, which was a satire and turned into a mawkish, patriotic ode to himself — including the infamous statue of himself at the end of the movie.  In a movie full of bad, bloated ego ideas, Costner even sings a duet with Amy Grant over the closing credits.

The budget for The Postman was a very expensive $80 million and Warner Bros fully financed.  The movie was dated as a major event picture over the Christmas frame and was initially viewed as a prestige film with award potential.  Remember that Costner’s first and only directing effort at this point had been Dances with Wolves (1990).

Problems began months before the opening when audiences were laughing and hissing at the trailer for the movie.  After a series of disastrous test screenings, WB tried to get Coster to cut the film down from its 3 hour running time, but he refused.  Then the reviews came in, which were abysmal and the movie was shaping up to be a fiasco.

The Postman bowed into a very competitive end of the year holiday marketplace against As Good as It Gets, Jackie Brown, An American Werewolf in Paris and Mr. MagooTitanic had also just opened and was dominating the box office.  The film was dead on arrival with $5,260,324 — placing #9 for the weekend led by Titanic.  It declined 32.8% to $3,533,942 over the New Year’s frame and then collapsed 68.1% to $1,127,922 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with an awful $17,626,234.

Overseas numbers were just $9.4M.  The worldwide gross was $27M and WB would see returned about $15M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below global P&A costs and the budget would be all red.

2 Comments

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  1. The legendary King of Flops, in my book. It may not be the biggest money loser of all time, but it’s hard to think of a more universally ridiculed film than this.

    Also I think Costner’s career is unkillable. It took a few years but somehow he emerged from Waterworld and this intact. Granted the mega budget days were over, but he’s somehow still a leading man in lower-to-mid budget stuff and in supporting roles in Jack Ryan and as Jonathan Kent.

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