The 13th Warrior

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    [Total: 12 Average: 3.3]
  • Directed By: John McTiernan
  • Written By: Michael Crichton, William Wisher, Warren Lewis
  • Release Date: August 27, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: Disney (Touchstone)
  • Cast: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Dennis Storhøi, Omar Sharif

Box Office Info:
Budget: $85 millionFinanced by: Disney
Domestic Box Office: $32,698,899Overseas Box Office: $29,000,000

the 13th warrior flop
The 13th Warrior was originally in development at Cinergi in 1996, where they were set to co-finance the project equally with Disney.  Cinergi then hit a financial cold streak and began negotiations with Disney to have their library of movies acquired, which was finally completed in 1997.  The 13th Warrior (originally titled Eaters Of The Dead) was moved over to Disney, which took over sole financing duties.  The budget for The 13th Warrior was set near $60 million, but after a messy post production that underwent heavy reshoots, the costs rose to $85 million.   In the years after The 13th Warrior bombed horribly, the budget began to magically climb from websites circulating nonsensical numbers, until this ever growing budget reached $160 million — and The 13th Warrior was belatedly declared by some outlets as the biggest flop of all time.  That number is unsubstantiated and there was no mention in any Disney filing reports about the fiscal damage a movie that expensive would have caused.  Disney’s studio division did post an $84 million loss in the quarter, because of the box office failures of The 13th Warrior, Mumford and Mystery Alaska.

Back to post production.  After John McTiernan’s edit was test screened, the response was overwhelmingly negative and reshoots were ordered.  Michael Crichton was brought in to take over the reshoots, but McTiernan also demanded to direct the reshoots and inexplicably both men were given soundstages to do their own version.  Crichton’s footage was ultimately used and McTiernan went off and helmed another movie The Thomas Crown Affair.  Because of the prolonged post-production and tinkering, the prime summer 1998 release date was pushed back to the spring of 1999 and then the mouse house dumped The 13th Warrior at the slow end of summer frame on August 27, 1999.

It bowed against The Astronaut’s Wife, In Too Deep, The Muse and Dudley Do-Right.  McTiernan’s The Thomas Crown Affair was released just 3 weeks earlier.  Reviews were poor, buzz was minimal and The 13th Warrior posted a terrible $10,267,756 — placing #2 for the weekend led by the holdover The Sixth Sense.  It declined 35.7% to $6,601,306 during the Labor Day frame and then sank 54.1% to $3,027,182 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with $32,698,899.

Disney also saw the picture post poor number overseas, which grossed just $29M.  The worldwide total was $61.6M and about $33.8M would be returned after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would not cover P&A expenses and the budget would be all red.

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