Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas

  • Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas
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  • Directed By: Patrick Gilmore, Tim Johnson
  • Written By: John Logan
  • Release Date: July 2, 2003
  • Domestic Distributor: DreamWorks
  • Cast: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer

Box Office Info:
Budget: $100 million (estimated) Financed by: DreamWorks
Domestic Gross: $26,483,452 Overseas Gross: $54,284,432

Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas 2003
The legendary Arab sailor gets the big screen mistreatment courtesy of Jeffrey Katzenberg, who turned the classic character into a Sicilian going on Greek adventures.  The huge failure of Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas marked the end of traditional animation for DreamWorks and it nearly sank the studio.  Sinbad was the fourth traditionally animated feature at DreamWorks after the modest hit The Prince of Egypt (1998), the box office disaster The Road To El Dorado (2000) and the underperforming Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002).

DreamWorks fully financed Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas and the budget was reported as $60 million, but DreamWorks Animation’s public offering filing gives a clearer picture of the movie’s loss and that the reported budget was not based anywhere near reality.  Before we jump into the filing, DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen had publicly said Sinbad lost the mini-major $125 million.  On page 41 and 42 of the public offering, DreamWorks had written off $41.3M from “two unreleased animated projects” that were scrapped and the studio ended 2003 with an operating loss of $167.6M.  The filing continued with “There were two principal reasons for the decline in operating income and the increase in net loss in 2003: the disappointing performance of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, and the write-off of the two unreleased animated projects described above.”  That leaves the actual write-down of Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas at $126.3 million  — one of the biggest losses on record.

Back to the $60 million budget figure.  Based on that number with the write-down (which included life in the ancillary market), marketing expenses would have had to been closer to $200M.  That is an absurd number (absurd for 2003 but sadly not absurd for today’s tentpoles) and marketing expenses were more realistically in the $100M – $125M range.  So, by working backward from the movie’s loss, the amount spent promoting it, the percentage returned of the worldwide gross after theater’s take their cut and estimated ancillary revenue — the budget was closer to $100M.

With traditional animation losing its market share to the burgeoning CG animated craze, Jeffrey Katzenberg had talked about this transitional era at DreamWorks which was working on Shrek, Spirit and Sinbad: “It was my worst period, without a doubt. I really suffered with Sinbad. We’d started on them so we had to finish, but I knew Shrek was the way forward and that I was in a sense lying. I couldn’t tell anybody, but I knew.”

Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas was dated for the prime holiday frame on July 2, 2003.  In addition to the traditional P&A blitz, tens of millions were also wasted from corporate promotional tie-ins with Baskin-Robbins, Burger King Corp., General Mills, Hewlett Packard, M&M’s Brand, Valpak, Speedway SuperAmerica and Hasbro action figures.  Sinbad bowed against Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde and it was tracking to open between $15 million and $20 million.  Sinbad also saw direct competition with Finding Nemo, which was in its 6th weekend and still going strong.

The picture pulled in a disastrous $6,874,477 — placing #6 for the weekend and coming in miles behind Terminator 3, Legally Blond 2 and Finding Nemo.  The film saw a modest 37.3% second weekend decline to $4,310,834 but it tumbled 56.2% in its third weekend to $1,890,171 and quickly bombed out of theaters with $26,483,452.  DreamWorks would see returned about $14.5 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross.

UIP (joint distribution between Universal and Paramount) put Sinbad out in most overseas markets to soft numbers.  France posted the highest gross with $7.9 million and the offshore cume was $54,284,432.

After a few years of underperforming movies and a few major box office catastrophes, like Sinbad, the public offering of DreamWorks Animation was setup so DreamWorks’ original investors, specifically Paul Allen could recoup some of their capital.


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  1. It had to sting for Sinbad that Finding Nemo not only beat it, but that the latter grossed over 60% more in its SIXTH weekend than the former did in its opening weekend.

  2. It cost 60 million to make and they grossed 80 million so 20 million profit.. where does the loss of 125 million come from?

    • As written — marketing expenses and theaters don’t show movies for free. $125M was not an arbitrary number we posted. This is from SEC reports filed by DreamWorks. Here’s an latimes article that also reported the $125M loss, straight from the mouth of former DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen, who said the movie nearly bankrupted the entire studio. Yes, a $60M budgeted movie lost $125M.

    • The value of return studios have from box offices varies between 45%-55% with the rest of the money going to the theater that showcase the movie (For example,a movie that costed 50 millions should make at least 100 millions on the box office only to pay itself,and that excluding the marketing costs),so from that 80 million box office Dreamworks only received around 40 million in return,not nearly enough to pay the core budget of the movie (That would report an 20 million loss) and especially the ggantic marketing costs. That is why it lost so much money.

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