You can't produce, or even predict, lightning, but Hollywood keeps trying. A huge summertime hit, now known as a blockbuster, can make or break a film career. When studios have an idea they feel cannot go wrong, they are likely to sink tons of money into it, which only raises the stakes of success. In 2007, it seemed like a sequel to a huge hit would be a no-brainer ...but the producers were wrong.
Evan Almighty had a reported budget, before marketing, of $175 million, in 2007. That might not sound unusual now if you’re talking about a huge action movie with a handful of major stars to its name, but this was a sequel to a comedy about a man who was temporarily granted God’s powers. Bruce Almighty, the original film, made more than $480 million worldwide when it was released in 2003, but it starred Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston—two of the biggest stars in the world at the time—and cost just $81 million to produce. Bruce plays God, but the film isn’t exactly packed full of extravagant setpieces. For Evan Almighty, the studio decided to go bigger, much bigger, to the point that the film had the distinction of being the most expensive comedy ever produced at the time.
Steve Carell, who played Evan, was already an acclaimed comedy star, but he didn’t have Carrey’s proven box office draw. All of that, plus the massive costs of visual effects and live animals on the set, led to the film earning just under its reported budget at the box office. When you factor in promotional costs and the cut theatrical distributors take from a film’s earnings, that means the studio had to take a loss.
Other movies that were expected to be blockbusters (but weren't) include a few you may have never heard of, as well as some famous disasters such as Battlefield Earth and Ishtar. And then there are the movies in between, those you've heard about but didn't bother going to the theater for, in a list at Mental Floss.