- Directed By: Chris Columbus
- Written By: Nicholas Kazan
- Release Date: December 17, 1999
- Domestic Distributor: Disney
- Cast: Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Sam Neill
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $100 million||Financed by: Disney; Sony|
|Domestic Gross: $58,223,861||Overseas Gross: $29,200,000|
“You have to make fun of ‘Fathers’ Day’ or ‘Bicentennial Man.’ ‘Popeye’ I stand by.”
About a decade after Isaac Asimov’s short story The Bicentennial Man was published, the theatrical rights were sold to producer Neal Miller in November 1986. The project remained dormant for just over a decade, until Wolfgang Petersen began to develop Bicentennial Man at Disney as a potential directing assignment. He eventually dropped it as a directing effort, but remained as a producer.
In May 1998, director Chris Columbus and Robin Williams announced they would collaborate on the picture. They had previous scored a massive hit with Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Williams had a supporting role in the mid-sized hit Nine Months (1995). The cost of the film was expected to be well over $100M and Disney demanded $20M be shaved off the budget. Columbus changed some outdoor scenes, which would have cost a fortune in vfx futuristic world building, to interior scenes — but the budget was still expected to reach $100M and Disney pulled the plug on Bicentennial Man in November 1998.
Expensive sets had already been built on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay when the mouse house shut down pre-production and to keep the project alive, Disney Chairman Joe Roth arranged a co-financing deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley in March 1999. While they had been done before, studio co-financing pacts with other studios were not yet commonplace in the late ’90s. Under the arrangement, Disney would handle the domestic release and Sony would have international responsibilities. Once the deal was quickly ironed out, production began a week later.
The budget for Bicentennial Man was at least $100 million and financed between Disney and Sony. The movie was quickly put together for a prime holiday season release on December 17, 1999. Disney supported the release with a strong marketing push, but it was not tracking well and the reviews were dreadful.
Bicentennial Man bowed against Stuart Little and Anna and the King. It flopped with $8,234,926 — placing #5 for the slow weekend led by Stuart Little. There was a small 17.7% decline in attendance to $6,780,948 over the Christmas frame and there was 22.1% uptic in business to $8,282,585 over the New Year’s session — but the expensive film stalled with $58,223,861. Disney would see returned about $32M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would likely cover most of the P&A expenses only.
Sony saw a terrible $29.2M from the overseas release. After pumping out sentimental crap for years, Robin Williams took a 3 year break from the big screen and in 2002 had roles in 3 dark pictures: One Hour Photo, Death To Smoochy and Insomnia.