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  • Directed By: Robert Butler
  • Written By: Jonathan Brett
  • Release Date: January 10, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: MGM
  • Cast: Ray Liotta, Lauren Holly, Brendan Gleeson

Box Office Info:
Budget: $60 million Financed by: Rysher
Domestic Box Office: $11,538,235 Overseas Box Office: $5,123,697

After half a century in television, Rysher Entertainment went big screen in the late 90s and after three years of unprofitable pictures, Turbulence was their biggest financial disaster and led to the closure of their film division.  The budget for Turbulence was $60 million.   This was produced by misguided ideas from Rysher, whose idea of a big budget action film that will play to the international market was a movie that takes place mostly on one set; an idiotic screenplay that they paid $1M to Jonathan Brett for; hiring a 70 year old TV veteran to direct and cast the few roles in the film to non-bankable actors.

This was a showcase for an utterly incompetent and witless performance from Lauren Holly — who also starred in Rysher’s other 1997 dud A Smile Like Yours — and Ray Liotta doesn’t appear to be directed at all, as Robert Butler seems incapable of modulating his performance, which ranges from over the top, to scenery chewing, to prop chewing.  Turbulence is a truly hysterical bad movie and makes for some great ‘what the hell were they thinking’ entertainment.

In May 1995, Rysher entered into a domestic distribution arrangement with the always in financial distress studio MGM, which handled the release for Turbulence.  In 1996 there was a production hiatus at MGM, while Kirk Kerkorian was in the process of purchasing the studio for the third time and almost all of the studio’s 1997 releases were output deals for other companies like Rysher.  MGM only had three in-house pictures in ’97 — the flops Hoodlum and Red Corner and the hit Tomorrow Never Dies.  Turbulence was originally planned to have an end of the year 1996 release, but it was moved to the January dumping ground on January 10, 1997 and was the first film out of the gate for MGM in the new year.

Turbulence bowed against two other genre movies that would all compete for similar auds — The Relic and Jackie Chan’s First StrikeEvita and The People Vs. Larry Flynt also expanded into wide release.  Reviews were bottom of the barrel and Turbulence was dead on arrival with $4,464,008 — placing #8 for the slow weekend led by The Relic.  It declined 43.1% to $2,541,279 the following frame and quickly left theaters with just $11,538,235.  MGM would see returned about $6.3M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which was far below P&A expenses.  Rysher announced the closure of their film unit in July.

Rysher mitigated some risk on the expensive film from international sales to distributors.  Turbulence corpsed with a $5.1M cume across many distributors.  Home video sales were enough to spawn two cheap made for the video market sequels.


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