June 7, 2001
'Town & Country' Worst
it's the curse of Ishtar, but Warren Beatty's better known for his flops than hits
Thanks to Town & Country--the
forever in-production sex farce--Beatty is part of two of the biggest bombs in Hollywood
In fact, Town & Country now
has the dubious distinction of biggest flop of all time.
The film has earned a paltry $6.7
million in just four weeks of release and New Line Cinema has pulled all prints from
theaters. According to the Los Angeles Times, Town & Country's budget
over the course of its three-year production ballooned to $85 million--a big sum for an
While studio suits may quibble over
the term "flop," the definition we're using is based on the negative cost of the
film--the movie's budget excluding print and advertising costs---as compared to the film's
overall domestic gross. (Some films, like Costner's Waterworld, for example, end up
making their budget back overseas or after their release on video).
In the case of Town & Country,
the movie's U.S. gross equaled less than 8 percent of the total cost.
That's worse than any other film. The
only question is, just how much worse? Depending on the source, there are several films in
the number two slot. According to The Top 10 of Everything, Geena Davis' ill-fated
adventure Cutthroat Island was the previous record holder. Meanwhile, Foxnews.com's
Roger Friedman says the bad benchmark was set by the 1997 Kevin Costner stinker The
Postman. Other sources say it was Michael Cimino's infamously pricey Western, Heaven's
Gate. (Ishtar ranks in the top 10 on all the lists.)
The reason for the discrepancy? While
studios release their box-office grosses, they are much more reticent when it comes to a
film's budget, so it becomes difficult to ascertain the exact magnitude of a flop.
Regardless, all the aforementioned films lost scads of money, and they aren't alone.
"Film history is littered with
films that have not performed to expectations," said Paul Dergarabedian, President of
Exhibitor Relations, a company that keeps track of box-office statistics. "There are
numerous examples. Heaven's Gate, Ishtar, Hudson Hawk, you name
Other notable disasters include The
Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Inchon, Double Team, Pirates and Billy
But somehow Town & Country
out-sucked them all.
A sex farce in the vein of such 1940s
screwball classics as Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth or Preston Sturges' The Palm
Beach Story, Town & Country starred Beatty as a renowned happily married
New York architect who cheats on his long-time wife (Diane Keaton) on the eve of their
25th wedding anniversary. Through a series of miscues and '70s style bed-hopping, Porter
attempts to resolve his midlife crisis.
Despite the presence of name costars
like Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling and Andie MacDowell, critics weren't too fond of the
Peter Chelsom-directed movie. "Everything about Town & Country feels out
of sync," said the Hollywood Reporter. "A little idea that looked good on
paper, didn't work on the set, and only got worse the more money and talent that was
thrown at it," read a review in Entertainment Weekly. "Obviously, this
movie comes at the wrong moment," said the Chicago Tribune.
Like many of the biggest flops, the
Beatty film was plagued by script problems and reshoots that stretched the production. (Town
& Country was supposed to be released in the last millennium.)
"If you have a flop that sort of
flies under the radar, you just lick your wounds and go home, but a film like Town
& Country, had been on the release schedule for some time and encountered
trouble," said Dergarabedian.
However, unlike United Artists, which
never recovered from its Heaven's Gate debacle, Degarabedian says New Line should
have no trouble rebounding.
"[New Line] has Rush Hour II
and some other films that should do extremely well for them," he says. "It's a
pretty good lineup leading up to The Lord of the Rings.