Author: Gus Baker
By the Numbers
Let me make one thing clear from the get go: I am excited to go see The Meg. I have been excited to see The Meg since the ads started airing back in April. However, I do believe that The Meg is more likely to sink than to swim. This is not because The Meg will not be entertaining, in fact I expect it to be very entertaining, I mean how could a movie about a giant prehistoric shark terrorizing a modern city not be?The problem with The Meg lies in its inflated budget. The Meg was produced on a budget of $150 million1, with at least another $100 million (a conservative estimate) spent on its global marketing campaign.
While a $250 million price tag is nothing unreasonable for a summer blockbuster, there are a number of factors to consider. Shark themed films as a genre do not typically break the box office. As per Box Office Mojo, the top five highest grossing shark films are Jaws, Shark Tale, Jaws 2, Deep Blue Sea, and the 2016 sleeper hit The Shallows (a film I personally very much enjoyed). Of the top 5, only Jaws ($470 million) and Shark Tale ($367 million) managed to cross the $250 million mark at the global box office. This isn’t to say that The Meg can’t break the mold, but history is not on its side. Assuming a $250 million combined budget, The Meg would need at least $300 million to break even after distribution costs.2
Fading Star Power
The second issue lies in its stars. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Jason Statham, but outside of his established franchises (Fast and the Furious and the Mechanic) films starring Statham have struggled to turn a profit since 2012 (see Safe, Parker, Hummingbird, and the truly atrocious Wild Card just to name a few).
Co-starring with Statham are Li Bingbing and Ruby Rose. Bingbing is a talented actress and has starred in numerous successful Chinese productions. However, she is lesser known in the United States, where her resume is headlined by less than stellar projects such as The Forbidden Kingdom and Transformers: Age of Extinction. So, while her name will draw some interest from the international market, don’t expect it to be a big draw for the typical domestic crowd. Rose has gained traction in recent years, starring in successful productions such as Orange is the New Black and John Wick: Chapter 2, and while she has a strong dedicated fan base, she is still far from an A-list name.
China to the Rescue?
By my guess, The Meg’s best shot at success is China. It is, after all, an American-Chinese co-production and Li Bingbing’s name carries greater weight in her home country. The Chinese market has been known to save American films from flopping before (see World of Warcraft and Pacific Rim), and the Chinese market has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of Jaws and Shark Tale. The fact remains that movies cost more to market and distribute overseas, so the money that comes in from the Chinese market will need to be substantial to cover the extra costs.
I estimate The Meg will gross somewhere between $150 (worst case) and 350 million (best case, with some heavy lifting from China). Realistically, I’d put it right in the middle at $250 million, with about $100 million US, $150 million international. I expect this film to be another loser for Warner Bros., with decidedly modest gains being the best outcome.
2. The cut of the ticket sales that goes to the theaters, typically around 20% domestic, 25% international