Speed Racer

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  • Directed By: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
  • Written By: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
  • Release Date: May 9, 2008
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman

Box Office Info:
Budget: $120 million Financed by: Warner Bros; Village Roadshow; Germany’s Federal Film Fund
Domestic Gross: $43,945,766 Overseas Gross: $49,448,696

Speed Racer was co-financed by Warner Bros and Village Roadshow for $120 million and the production received $13 million from Germany’s Federal Film Fund.  After an expensive marketing blitz and disastrous box office sales, it has been estimated that Speed Racer lost Warner Bros and Village Roadshow north of $100 million and is one of the costliest flops on record.

In the months leading up to the May 9, 2008 release date, WB launched one of their most expensive marketing campaigns in the studio’s history, hoping to build a franchise.  Along with the P&A spend, an additional $80 million was spent from global tie-ins with companies like General Mills, McDonald’s, Hot Wheels, Lego and more.  With the marketing blitz impossible to ignore, most audience demographics were turned off by the near psychotic ad spots, which were a frenzy of fast cuts, vibrant colors and noise.  Young boys near the age of 10 were the most responsive to the promotional material, but WB wanted to also broaden the movie’s appeal to older auds who might be nostalgic for the 1967 cartoon TV series.  “From the creators of The Matrix Trilogy” was then plastered over all marketing — and nothing pulls in more audiences to a children’s movie than touting the directors’ previous R rated violent movies.

Even with the release date approaching, it was expected that Speed Racer was going to pull in blockbuster numbers, but then awful reviews began to post and its 2 hour and 15 minute running time not only limited the amount of showings per day, but was a major deterrent to both critics and auds.  The studio had tried to convince the Wachowskis to trim the movie down to a lean 90 minutes, but after strong test screening scores, they refused.

Speed Racer had its opening weekend expectations reduced to just north of $30M.  It bowed against What Happens in Vegas and would have direct competition with the second frame of Iron Man.  After bad buzz, bad reviews and a 135 minute running time, Speed Racer was a disaster, pulling in $18,561,337 — placing #3 for the weekend led by Iron Man.  The family pic was crushed the following weekend when The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian opened and Speed Racer sank 56.3% to $8,117,459.  After large weekly declines, the domestic run closed with a terrible $43,945,766.

Warner Bros released the film overseas in most territories and Village Roadshow released in a handful.  Australian based Roadshow saw the film tank in their home country with only $2.2 million.  Speed Racer flopped in the UK with $3.2 million and the highest gross was $6.1 million from Mexico.  The offshore total was just $49.4 million. About $51.3M would be returned after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which leaves much of the global P&A expenses in the red and the budget at a loss.

The Wachowskis followed the disastrous performance of Speed Racer with their ambitious flop Cloud Atlas (2012) and then their fiasco Jupiter Ascending (2015).


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  1. I absolutely love this movie- it’s the perfect “live action cartoon.” A thoroughly underrated, and thoroughly fun and enjoyable, film.

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