Mortal Engines, the big-budget sci-fi movie from a series of Lord of the Rings veterans, is expected to be a major box office flop. Variety reports that the film is expected to lose more than $100 million when all is said and done. The film had a reported production budget of $100 million, with “tens of millions” more spent on marketing. As of December 16, Universal’s Mortal Engines has made only $42 million worldwide.
“This is a true Christmas disaster and a lump of coal for Universal,” Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock told Variety. “They took a big swing, and they struck out.”
Mortal Engines has yet to open in China, which is a massive market, but it currently has no release date for that country. The disappointing box office results come even though Mortal Engines has big names attached–it was written by LotR’s Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh. It was directed by Oscar winner Christian Rivers, who also worked on LotR.
As we reported in the past, Mortal Engines takes place in the far future where modern technology as we know it has been destroyed and morphed into a steampunk-like world, where giant, moving cities traverse through Europe looking for other cities to eat, in order to use the eaten city’s structures to power their gigantic machines to continue the hunt.
That might be a visually stunning set-up, but the complicated plot was one of the reasons that Warner Bros. and Fox said no to the film because Universal picked it up, according to Variety. Universal reportedly only contributed 30 percent of the production costs, with Media Rights Capital putting up half of the money. Legendary and Perfect World also financed the movie.
Jackson apparently at one point said he believed Mortal Engines could become another big franchise, but this box office performance suggests that may not happen.