Disney's 'Lone Ranger' a balance-sheet danger

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 2:31am

It was billed as one of the season's biggest blockbusters, reuniting Johnny Depp - as Tonto in The Lone Ranger - with the team behind the huge success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

But Walt Disney has now warned that the film could go down as one of the year's biggest flops, predicting losses of almost US$200 million.

The Lone Ranger stars Armie Hammer as the masked Texas lawman and Depp as his Comanche spirit guide. Costing US$225 million, the film, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, suffered a tortuous production process and met with largely scathing reviews on its release in the US.

Concerns over the odds of recouping the investment were reportedly voiced during production, and the shoot halted for several months over fears it was running over budget. Disney was at one point reported to be threatening to shelve the entire movie over spiralling costs, partly spooked by the failure of another western, Cowboys and Aliens.

When the film opened in the US and Canada over the July 4 Independence Day weekend it took just US$29.9 million. By comparison, the Superman reboot Man of Steel took US$125 million.

Promoting the film before its British release, cast and crew appeared to lay blame for its box office failure in the US at the feet of the critics.

Depp said: "I think the reviews were written seven to eight months before we released the film. [The critics] had expectations that it must be a blockbuster. I don't have any expectations of that. I never do."

It was a view echoed by Bruckheimer: "It's one of those movies that whatever the critics missed in it this time, they'll review it in a few years and see that they made a mistake."

British reviews have been somewhat kinder. The Guardian gave the film two stars and said it was "not quite the flat-out, jaw-dropping calamity that some would have had us believe".

The Lone Ranger is on course to be the most disappointing earner for Disney since last year's space fantasy John Carter, which lost more than US$200 million.


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