Wild Wild West

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  • Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld
  • Written By: S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
  • Release Date: June 30, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek

Box Office Info:
Budget: $180 millionFinanced by: Warner Bros
Domestic Gross: $113,804,681Overseas Gross: $108,300,000

wild wild west sonnenfeld
Before Men In Black was released in July 1997, director Barry Sonnenfeld and Will Smith were offered Wild Wild West in February and this legendary stinker went into active development at Warner Bros.  Will Smith turned down the lead role in The Matrix to star in this trainwreck.  CBS brokered a deal with WB, where they would license the 1965 TV series rights to the studio and in exchange the broadcaster would pay $6 million for two airings of what was expected to be a beloved blockbuster.  The normal going rate at the time for TV rights were about 15% of the domestic box office — so regardless CBS landed the movie at a discount, but landed a universally despised movie.

Warner Bros fully financed Wild Wild West and the huge tentpole was awarded a long 100 day shooting schedule.  As the production dragged along, reports began to leak that the movie was over schedule and massively over-budget.  WB insisted the costs were $105 million, but after at least two weeks of going over schedule and 10 days allotted for reshoots in response to poor test screenings — the budget for Wild Wild West was expected to carry a $180 million price tag and rival studios pegged the budget closer to $200M.

Wild Wild West represents the absolute worst in reckless, wretched excess — plenty of which rests on the shoulders of former hairdresser to Barbra Streisand, turned producer Jon Peters.  Peters has since gained minor notoriety for being the dipshit that gave Kevin Smith three directives for writing his abandoned Superman Lives script — no Superman suit, no flying and there must be a giant spider to fight.  Jon Peters yielded a lot of power at WB in the late ’90s and used his cloute to get his ridiculous giant spider into this idiotic movie.  The man should be studied for very successfully reaping the benefits of being stupid at work.  Pointless Trivia: Peters contractually maintains a revenue stream from Superman properties and producer Christopher Nolan wisely had him banned from the Man Of Steel set.

Warner Bros dated Wild Wild West for June 30, 1999 and in the months leading up to the release, buzz was becoming continually toxic.  The theatrical trailer was poorly received, as was the inexplicable giant robotic spider and the much publicized reshoots were happening just two months before it would be in theaters.  WB gave the picture the full support of their marketing machine and spent a fortune hyping this disaster, knowing the picture needed a massive opening before negative word of mouth would inevitably sink it.

Reviews were atrocious and it bowed against South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Summer Of Sam.  To get a jumpstart on the weekend WB opened Wild Wild West on a Wednesday and the weekend 3-day total was $27,687,484.  The 5-day opening was a solid $40,957,789.  Auds predictably gave the pic a poor C+ cinemascore and it declined a so-so 39.2% to $16,834,042 the following frame.  Even with terrible word of mouth and humiliating reviews, Wild Wild West made it past the century mark with $113,804,681.

The overseas numbers were $108.3M.  The worldwide cume was $222.1M — which would be a very respectable number, if the movie did not cost nearly $300M to produce and market.  WB would see returned about $122.1M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — covering their global P&A blitz, but the theatrical receipts would not dent the gargantuan budget.

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