How Do You Know

  • How Do You Know box office
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  • Directed By: James L. Brooks
  • Written By: James L. Brooks
  • Release Date: December 17, 2010
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson

Box Office Info:
Budget: $120 million Financed by: Sony
Domestic Box Office: $30,212,620 Overseas Box Office: $18,456,287

Sony financed this $120 million fiasco that went over an already high budget when director James L. Brooks decided to reshoot the beginning and the end of the film.  The major players in How Do You Know landed a combined $50 million payday, with Reese Witherspoon commanding $15 million, Jack Nicholson was paid $12 million, Owen Wilson’s agent somehow landed him $10 million, Paul Rudd’s salary was $3 million and James L. Brooks was paid $10 million plus backend points.  With a budget that high and a pricey marketing spend to follow, the film would have to pull in unrealistic numbers just to break even.  As with Brooks’ previous movie Spanglish, which also underwent a glacial production schedule that skyrocketed the budget, How Do You Know was just a throwaway film from a once talented director who was given free reins and blew it.

Sony positioned the movie during the very crowded end of the year market on December 17.  How Do You Know bowed against Tron Legacy and Yogi Bear, as well as the wide expansions the well reviewed adult fare The Fighter and Black Swan, which would also be competing for similar auds.  Reviews were poor and How Do You Know was tracking very soft going into release and was estimated to pull in just $10 million.

The picture was a disaster, opening to $7,484,696 — placing #8 for the weekend led by Tron Legacy.  Audiences did not like How Do You Know any more than critics and it landed a toxic C- cinemascore and it sank 52.6% in its second weekend to $3,548,965.  It posted a 28.1% gain over the New Year frame to $4,547,420 but it was too little too late.  It vanished quickly from US theaters with $30,212,620.

Sony released the film overseas to even worse numbers and racked up a sizable marketing spend that just added to the loss.  How Do You Know pulled in a dismal $18.4 million and the worldwide total was $48.6M.  The studio would see returned about $26.7M after theaters take their percentage of the gross.  How Do You Know was Sony’s biggest flop of 2010 and one of the biggest money losers on record.

James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films had a home at Sony since 1990 and after How Do You Know flopped, Sony declined to renew their deal with the filmmaker.  In Sony’s quarterly report, How Do You Know was singled out for denting the third quarter income, which had scored a hit with The Social Network, but reported an operating loss of $58 million.


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  1. Too bad because I liked this movie a ton. I think it missed it’s target audience and it is a gem that I recommend to all my friends.

  2. Truly one of the worst and most dull films I have ever had the misfortune of watching. I always hold out home that there will be something redeeming or worthwhile in a subpar film… but this was an all-around disaster from start to finish.

  3. is there a movie out there that cost more with less up on the screen than How Do You Know? I can’t think of one.

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