An all-female Ghostbusters reboot, a movie likened to "head trauma" by reviewers, and Sacha Baron Cohen masturbating a male elephant, apparently didn't do the trick for audiences last year.
After a dismal run of box office bombs, Sony is writing down the value of its movie business by NZ$1.78 billion in the third quarter, the company announced in a stock market filing.
Among Sony's biggest disappointments last year were Ghostbusters, which made $314.3 million on production costs of $197 million, Inferno, which made $301.9 million on a production budget of 102.9 million, and Sacha Baron Cohen's The Brothers Grimsby, which made just $34 million on a budget of $48 million.
Sony blamed the write down on an "acceleration of market decline" in spending on DVDs, Blu-Rays and other home entertainment, as consumers rapidly switch to streaming services such as Netflix, but it said the majority of the write down dated back to its acquisition of US studio Columbia Pictures Entertainment in 1989.
It has also reduced the profitability projections of its films, but said that impact was "expected to be largely mitigated by measures that have been identified to improve the profitability" of the film business. Sony did not specify what those measures were.
The company stressed it had no plans to sell its movie business, however, saying that "the Pictures segment continues to be an important business of Sony".
"We knew the movie [business] isn't in good shape, but the write down was a total surprise," Macquarie Securities analyst Damian Thong told The Wall Street Journal.
Variety reports the studio had better luck with smaller films including Sausage Party, which made $185 million on a $26 million budget, shark thriller The Shallows, which made $163 million on a $23.3 million budget, and horror film Don't Breathe, which made $205 million on a $13.59 million budget.
Sony's movie arm has languished near the bottom of the box office rankings for several years. Former movie chief Amy Pascal was kicked out in the wake of the devastating 2014 hack, and her successor, Tom Rothman, has so far had little luck turning things around.
In an email to employees on Monday, Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai and Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton said that "Sony Corp.'s commitment to SPE remains unchanged" but that "our reform initiatives take time to produce results" due to the long business cycle for movies, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The company will hope that this year's Spider-Man: Homecoming, which they made as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will resurrect their fortunes.
SONY'S BILLION-DOLLAR BOMBS
73 per cent
One of the year's most controversial films, the all-female reboot of the classic comedy franchise made headlines before it was even released with the dubious honour of having the most-disliked trailer of all time on YouTube. Despite (maybe because of) the internet haters, reviewers were surprisingly positive, with MTV describing it as "a middle finger to the screaming brobabiez". But with a box office of $314 million, the film posted a $96 million loss - the studio had said $411 million would be considered breaking even - partly due to heavy marketing spend to combat the negative initial publicity.
19 per cent
Tom Hanks' third outing as the globetrotting "symbologist" Robert Langdon was a box office disaster in the US, but managed to turn a small profit thanks to a relatively strong international performance and small production budget. One reviewer wrote that like Hanks, who starts the movie in hospital suffering amnesia, Inferno will "make you, too, feel like you're experiencing head trauma".
The Brothers Grimsby
Rotten Tomatoes: 37 per cent
Box Office: $34.3 million
Budget: $48.04 million
Unfortunately audiences did not turn out in droves to watch Sacha Baron Cohen suck poison from his brother's testicles, have rockets inserted into his anus, and to assist a male elephant ejaculate in order to escape from his hiding place inside a female elephant's uterus. The New York Times mused that "while there may be comedy gold in an elephant's vagina, Mr Cohen fails to find it here".
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Rotten Tomatoes: 45 per cent
Box Office: $42.41 million
Budget: $54.9 million
You think they would have learned their lesson after The Hobbit, but studios are still determined to make ultra-high frame rate films happen. Director Ang Lee's film about an Iraq veteran suffering PTSD, shot in "unprecedented" 120FPS, 4K 3D, was described by some critics as "unwatchable" in its intended format. The movie is being released straight to DVD in New Zealand.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Rotten Tomatoes: 42 per cent
Box Office: $22.5 million
Budget: $38.4 million
Based on the 2009 novel of the same name, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was variously described as "awkward and unsatisfying", "a failure across multiple fronts" and "unlikely to please any audience regardless of what they're looking for". It also lost a ton of money, making just $22.5 million on a budget of $38.4 million.