What Dreams May Come
- Directed By: Vincent Ward
- Written By: Ronald Bass
- Release Date: October 2, 1998
- Domestic Distributor: PolyGram
- Cast: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $85 million||Financed by: PolyGram|
|Domestic Box Office: $55,382,927||Overseas Box Office: N/A|
What Dreams May Come had a long road to the big screen, which began when FOX purchased the novel rights in 1984. There was an attempt to land Steven Spielberg, but that never came together and he eventually helmed another corny afterlife movie Always (1989). After What Dreams May Come stalled at FOX, the rights were picked up by MGM in 1993. The expensive project was moving forward at the lion, but the cash strapped studio put it into turnaround in January 1996. Interscope then acquired the rights and took it over to Polygram, which finally gave What Dreams May Come an official greenlight at a $70 million budget. Polygram fully financed the picture.
Polygram took What Dreams May Come to the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for international pre-sales, which mitigated some risk for the company on the pricey film. Polygram handled domestic distribution and originally dated the movie for a prime summer ’98 release, but the vfx were behind schedule and it was pushed back until October 2. The budget for What Dreams May Come ballooned to at least $85 million.
Polygram gave the film an expensive marketing campaign and as the release was approaching, their parent corporation Seagram was trying to attract buyers for the Polygram film division. There was much speculation about the actual worth of the company and its library after Polygram was presenting financial data to bidders that forecasted a $100 million domestic box office take for What Dreams May Come and even predicted a $40M gross for Return to Paradise — which tanked with just $8.3M. Buyers never met the asking price and Seagram eventually sold off part of the library to different buyers and folded the rest of the company into Universal.
What Dreams May Come bowed against Antz and A Night at the Roxbury. Reviews were mixed to poor, with the visuals praised and the narrative criticized as sappy and derivative. It opened with $15,833,592 — placing #2 for the weekend led by Antz. Dreams declined 31.1% to $10,917,143 in its second frame and continued to post modest weekly drops in attendance, but the domestic run closed with a very disappointing $55,382,927. Polygram would see returned about $30.4M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would almost pay for the domestic P&A costs — but the theatrical receipts would not touch the budget.
What Dreams May Come corpsed overseas for the distributors that overpaid for this commercial bomb. The overseas numbers have not fully been reported, but the recorded gross at the end of December ’98 was $16.1M — which comprised the majority of the offshore major markets. The last major market to open was Japan in June 1999, but only the opening was reported at $774,000. The overseas run likely stalled at about $20M.