Wing Commander

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  • Directed By: Chris Roberts
  • Written By: Kevin Droney
  • Release Date: March 12, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: FOX
  • Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Saffron Burrows, Matthew Lillard

Box Office Info:
Budget: $27 million Financed by: FOX (15% investment)
Domestic Gross: $11,578,059 Overseas Gross: N/A

The budget for Wing Commander was $27 million and this godawful video game adaptation of the successful Wing Commander series had the majority of its financing from foreign pre-sales handled by Summit — which kicked off at Mifed in October 1997.  Both FOX and Sony were competing for domestic rights but Sony insisted on retaining not only domestic, but rights in most overseas markets as well — which disrupted the pre-sale financing model.  FOX was given the domestic rights and had a small equity investment in the project that covered 15% of the budget.

Sony took distribution territories in Latin America and a few European markets, but in February 1998 Sony pulled out of Wing Commander and FOX acquired all of those territories.  FOX then added Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The movie was directed by the game creator Chris Roberts, whose had his company Digital Anvil option the rights to the Wing Commander series from the game’s distributor Origin Systems.  He has not directed another feature film after this turkey.  Even lead actor Freddie Prinze Jr., whose resume was severely quality control challenged, said of the film: “I can’t stand Wing Commander. I can’t watch one scene of that movie… I read the script and loved it. So did my buddy Matthew Lillard. We both got the parts. We went on location and they said, “Here’s the new script.” It was a piece of sh-t.”

Wing Commander was indeed such a piece of sh-t, that FOX decided to dump the movie straight to video.  The studio had such a small investment into the picture that they did not want to bother investing far more into a P&A spend.  The producers lawyered up and eventually FOX to allowed them to shop the movie around to other distributors, where the studio stipulated they would need to have their share bought out for a profit if they were to let it go.  Sony was still interested in brokering a deal, but a few days after Freddie Prinze Jr. scored a hit with She’s All That (released Jan 29, 1999), FOX decided to give the movie a theatrical release, hoping he was bankable.

FOX rushed the movie onto the market on March 12, 1999 about one month after they announced Wing Commander was going to land a wide release.  There was no time to attach the trailer before any movies in release, so the studio overspent on TV ads.  To bolster sales, FOX also attached the theatrical trailer of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace to Wing Commander, since rabid fanboys were buying tickets to movies like Meet Joe Black and The Siege, just to watch the trailer on the big screen and then leave before the movie starts.

Wing Commander bowed against The Rage: Carrie 2The Corruptor, Baby Geniuses and The Deep End Of The Ocean.  Reviews were rock bottom.  FOX booked this stinker into 2,019 theaters and it pulled in a poor $5,114,365 — placing #7 for the weekend led by the holdover Analyze This.  Audiences gave Wing Commander a rare and hateful D cinemascore and it sank 55.6% to $2,269,491 the following weekend and bombed out of theaters with $11,578,059.  FOX would see returned about $6.3M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which leaves much of the P&A spend in the red.

Overseas numbers are not available.

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