The Wolfman

  • The Wolfman box office
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    • Directed By: Joe Johnston
    • Written By: Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self
    • Release Date: February 12, 2010
    • Domestic Distributor: Universal
    • Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving

Box Office Info:
Budget: $150 millionFinanced by: Universal; Relativity
Domestic Box Office: $61,979,680Overseas Box Office: $77,810,085

“One of the worst movies we ever made was Wolfman.  Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the shittiest movies we put out.”
-Ron Meyer, Universal Studios President


The Wolfman and especially Babe 2 are in no way near the shittiest movies Universal has released, but both were two of the biggest money losers for the studio.  Mark Romanek was first hired as the director and developed the project for over a year and his take on the classic monster was not what the producers and executives were looking for.  With the start date for filming just three weeks away, there were disputes over the budget, the tone and over the script.  The Writers Guild strike that started in November 2007 only complicated matters since adjustments could not be made on the page.  Romanek walked away from the project and just three days later, Joe Johnston signed on as director.

Johnston has since spoken about his experience on The Wolfman, saying “I had three weeks of prep on WOLFMAN, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time to try to bring together the fractured and scattered pieces of the production. I had taken the job mostly because I had a cash flow problem, the only time in my career I’ve ever let finances enter into the decision process. Money is always the wrong reason for doing something that requires passionate devotion. The production was a leaky, rudderless ship in a perfect storm suffering from bad decisions, infighting, reluctance of the powers-that-be to take responsibility, and too many under-qualified cooks in the kitchen.”

The Wolfman went into production in 2008 as a $100 million picture and a 15% UK tax break was to bring the net budget in at $85 million.  It was dated for November 12, 2008 and then the project was micromanaged to death by Universal executives and suffered numerous delays and retooling.  The Wolfman was then pushed back to February 12, 2009 and then moved to April 3, 2009, delayed again to November 6, 2009 and then dated for the Valentine’s frame on February 12, 2010.  There were extensive reshoots, millions spent on additional VFX and as costs were rising on this problem picture, veteran editor Walter Murch was hired late in post-production to replace Dennis Virkler to re-cut the entire movie.  Even the film’s music score was a major issue, with Paul Haslinger replacing Danny Elfman and then the studio decided to actually use some of Elfman’s score — and combined it with music from Conrad Pope.  Universal executives interfered to the point where you have to wonder if 16 year old interns at the studio had more creative input into the film than director Joe Johnston.

Financiers Universal and Relativity would find themselves on the line for a film that reportedly cost north of $150 million and became too expensive to realistically break even.  The Wolfman bowed against Valentine’s Day and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  Even with reviews that leaned negative and bad buzz from its difficulty at locking an edit, The Wolfman had a decent enough start at $31,479,235 — placing #2 for the weekend led by Valentine’s Day.  Audiences gave The Wolfman a poor C+ cinemascore and it also had competition from Shutter Island the following weekend which took most of its audience.  The Wolfman sank 68.6% in its second frame to $9,895,105 and continued to post large weekly drops in attendance and closed out its domestic run with $61,979,680.

Overseas, the picture took in $77.8 million, bringing the worldwide total to $139.7 million.  Decent numbers for a gory monster movie, but dreadful numbers for a $150 million production with a huge worldwide ad spend.  Universal would see returned about $76.8 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would not even cover all P&A expenses and leave the budget in the red.

Universal Pictures Chairman Marc Shmuger was fired in October 2009, after a string of recent Universal flops, including DuplicityLand of the LostFunny People and the out of control budgets for the as of yet to be released The Wolfman, Robin Hood, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Green Zone.

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