Paramount Animation's "Monster Trucks" is one of two films the division has released. Paramount Animation's "Monster Trucks" is one of two films the division has released.
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‘Monster Trucks’ Lost Paramount $115 Million—And The Film Isn’t Even Out

Monster Trucks, the live-action/cg-hybrid debut of Ice Age director Chris Wedge, doesn’t open in theaters until next week, but Paramount has already written off the movie as one big disaster. A $115 million disaster to be exact, which to put into perspective, is almost 80% of the budget that the United States government spends annually on ALL artists in this country of 325 million people.

Viacom-owned Paramount took a write-down on the movie last fall, citing “a programming impairment charge…related to the expected performance of an unreleased film.” The film is reported to have cost $125 million to produce.

Losing money on a film is nothing new for Hollywood studios, but announcing the impairment charge months in advance of a film’s release requires absolute confidence of failure. Paramount’s conviction that they’ve made a bad film should be believed because they know bad filmmaking better than anybody; the studio has been last place in market share among the American majors for five years running.

To be clear, director Chris Wedge doesn’t deserve all the blame here. He will surely get some of it, like this assessment by Variety’s Peter Debruge: “Like other directors who’ve hailed from the animation sphere (including John Carter helmer Andrew Stanton and The Chronicles of Narnia’s Andrew Adamson), [Wedge] seems overwhelmed by the transition, resulting in exaggerated acting and clunky staging.” But, Wedge was a hired hand on the project, brought on board by former Paramount Pictures president Adam Goodman, who dreamt up the concept with the help of (per the Wall Street Journal) his son, who was four years old at the time. (Goodman is currently running a movie production company owned by Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco.)

A write-down, to be clear, is not an actual loss of money, but a reduction of the book value of an asset. In the unlikely event that Monster Trucks becomes a hit—I personally can’t wait to see it, though maybe not for the right reasons—Paramount can decrease or reverse the write-down.

Animated films and directors have caused plenty of write-downs in recent years. Dreamworks has taken write-downs on numerous films, including Flushed Away ($109 million), Rise of the Guardians ($87 million), and Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar ($57 million apiece). That’s nothing compared to Andrew Stanton, whose live-action debut John Carter resulted in a $200 million write-down for Disney. The numbers are unclear on Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, but industry trades pegged the write-down on the film at around $120-140 million.

Monster Trucks
  • SomeCallMeKash

    At least Jim will see it

    • It will stop the Trump inauguration, after all!

  • maxxx

    the big difference between wedge and stanton or bird is that they actually made good movie before the transition….

  • Peter Buckley

    I saw it here in the UK with 4-year old and grown up family when the screening of “Ballerina” was full. We had an absolute blast. Unexpectedly, you do get involved enough with the characters, hoping they win the day against the antagonists. It has a really (to me) refreshing B-Movie/Sunday Special Children’s TV movie feel that I REALLY enjoyed. My sister noted similarities to E.T. (Hint: This isn’t as good) I found it genuinely exciting and effective, pacey, family-friendly action cinema. I wouldn’t be suprised personally if this is a future cult-gem, so start your re-appraisal early! Get your silly movie head on and you just might just find it very, very entertaining, as I did. It’s nonsense, the lead actor’s not the best, bless him, but somehow that’s appiece with the work. It’s the kind of movie that has practically 30 year olds that are supposed to be highschoolers, in the best kinda teen movie tradition. Very admirably it has a disabled character (played by Danny Glover), and makes no bones about it. So, besides the fact that I really enjoyed it, it’s a movie that has it’s heart in the right place. It’s worth your support if you bring along the right mindset for a movie about monsters in cars, at the cinema or on video.

  • David Turner

    I went to see it on Monday with my wife and my 2 youngest kids,I actually thought it was a really good film with good characters and a good storyline,the characters draw you into the film which makes it great to watch would go see it again I enjoyed it that much

  • This doesn’t look better or worse than a hundred other movies that made a mountain of money.

  • Roca

    That’s too bad- the preview actually looked pretty fun to me, and I’ll bet kids (and people like me) would enjoy it. It’s ok for a movie to be pure entertainment and not have some grand vision. Maybe Paramount isn’t giving it a chance?

  • KW

    What a bizarre premise.

  • ARMORMAN

    I think John Carter was poorly advertised. It was advertised as an action movie rather than the inspiration for many modern SciFi/Fantasy movies/books. I remember when the Rocketeer came out. Disney decided to release it the same weekend a small, independent follow-up movie came out….Terminator 2. While studios like to blame the directors, let’s look at the Stupid ideas some exec had for the movie….toys (in this case, big foot trucks), and a theme park ride (although I thought Tomorrowland was not half bad, considering the premise Bird had to work with)…maybe I’m being too generous….but then again….

    • Beamish Kinowerks

      sure, but it also featured a no-name lead actor and an incredibly generic title.

      • Rich Uncle Skeleton

        Hasn’t stopped Marvel from launching franchises.

    • Marcus Good

      there’s an excellent book entitled “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood” on how Disney dropped the ball. Short version – new management figured it was smarter to buy Star Wars then make their own sci-fi brand.

      • Hankenshift

        That book is hilarious in it’s sycophantic apologizing for this tripe. (and it’s blatant misinformation). Yes, the marketing was bad. But yes, the movie was that bad as well.

  • Chicken McPhee

    I’m hoping it’ll defy expectations, just because it’s such an underdog. It seems like with the creation of this someone at least cared.

  • jawsnnn

    John Carter will forever be the movie that wasn’t “that” bad

  • ea

    This is going to be Nostalgia Critic fodder a few years from now.

    • Capital_7

      That drip can go away any time, thankyouverymuch.

  • Capital_7

    I just don’t think it looks all that bad. I’m sure kids will enjoy it.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Remember…
    No matter what you say there will always be somebody out there who says, “But I really liked John Carter.”

  • sasquatchiscool

    Oh wow. They spent how much on this? Opening weekend you are looking at 10 Million tops. Can someone give me a million dollars and I’ll build you a franchise. Seriously.

    John Carter was a failure due to marketing. I think if you had put the whole “mars” thing in there you would have made more money. John Carter was a fairly fun movie. They needed to make the Pixar connection. Also not spend so much money.

    This movie should have and could have been made for 40 million dollars. Easily. I mean seriously. Why are special FX costs going up when they should be going down and they are “magically” for TV.
    I think this was just a sign of waste management.

  • Rodrigo

    A $115 million disaster ……..is
    almost 80% of the budget that the United States government spends
    annually on ALL artists

    OTOH it’s $115 million more than the government spends on plumbers or machinists, or electricians or quite a few other career options that are far more necessary to real life than artists politically connected to the government grant machinery.

    • Beamish Kinowerks

      The arts are an essential function of every society, and it’s very myopic and selfish to believe that they should not be subsidized. They don’t profit the 1% like war, healthcare and now education, though, so that’s why propaganda rails against it.

  • Who really thought this was going to be a blockbuster and deserved to be greenlit in the first place?! Who?!!

  • jawsnnn

    You’re the first person who has actually said that in my experience. Everyone I’ve met (personally and on online forums) agreed that it was a fun film with great production values. Does it have issues? Sure. Is it a “bad” film. No. Of course, YMMV.

  • talos72

    Hardly. John Carter may not have been a great film, but hardly a bad one. It certainly was no worse than the over-hyped mediocre Avatar, a film that heavily borrowed from Burrough’s books.

  • Hankenshift

    No. Not “unfairly.” It’s genuinely awful, as the vast majority of both critics AND audiences agree. It’s not even a good popcorn movie. It’s just awful.

    • TonicGesture

      Be more open; I’m merely sharing a counterpoint to the negative consensus the film has received over the years. (49% isn’t the vast majority of critics, though)

  • HalSolo

    That image of cuddling aliens is nightmarish! I mean it seriously evokes the body horror of Brian Yuzna’s Society, Stuart Gordon’s FromBeyond or Cronenberg’s The Brood! I love it, long live the new flesh.

  • I can see why Paramount is doing this. Critic reviews are quite poor. In addition, Sing and Moana are still doing very well in the box office right now. Not to mention that the box office itself is very crowded right now. In addition to this, 4 other movies are coming out that weekend. I see little hope for this.

  • donnp

    I’ll take your word for it, as I only made it through the first 30 mins.