There have been odd occurrences throughout history where something could technically be “one of the greatest [insert movie genre here] ever” and is still a box office bomb. It’s a rare phenomenon, but sometimes, a film’s costs are so high that even it outshines most of the other entries in the genre at the worldwide box office isn’t enough to become a hit. The incredible costs would sink even the most seemingly hefty box office.

Likewise with the 1999 film Wild natureA Will Smith/Kevin Klin the star vehicle that seeks to turn the TV show of the same name into a massive “modern” blockbuster. The result was something that instantly became the punchline, the nadir of Smith’s leading man career for decades to come. It is also, by default, one of the biggest Westerns ever to hit the world box office. It was a strange financial endpoint for a film that was devastated and widely ridiculed, but also one that reflects how odd a box office phenomenon can be.


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Why Don’t Westerners Make Big Money?

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger
Image via Walt Disney Pictures

Westerns are notable for being something that only tends to do well at the American box office. This genre is so deeply rooted in our country and traditions that it is difficult to sell it to other countries. While other staples of the American genre (noirs and superhero fare, that is) are able to resonate with people around the world, Western films tend to leave audiences in other countries with the chills. Exceptions like Django Unchained there are, but for the most part, Westerns are one of those genre studios that know has no real appeal to audiences outside of America.

Yet, given how well-known Westerns are in the canon of major American films, studios have, every now and then, attempted to launch a big-budget effort to revive the genre. The thought process here seems to be that the West was massive in the 1950s and 60s, so it must have the ability to become a giant once again. Studios would pump hundreds of millions of dollars into major Western films in hopes of turning back the clock and making it 1948 again at the box office. Of course, projects like Cowboys & Aliens And The Lonely Guardian it never works like it should. These projects are so expensive that they need the interest of a worldwide audience to become profitable. Given the West’s limited global appeal, that’s not going to happen. Even for the domestic audience, the appeal of Westerners, except for them Django or in Yellow Stone universe, tends to be limited. Why did you spend $180+ million to make it?

Ah, but studios keep trying and trying, hoping a big-budget Western “might just work for us.” Ironically, many of these attempts came after Wild nature be a bomb bomb. It’s a development that should soon keep very expensive Westerners out of any studio. Then again, there’s a lot more going on Wild Wild West sluggish box office from the mere fact that the main character is on horseback. Wild nature hit by a perfect storm of trouble.

The Story Behind Box Office Haul Wild Wild West

Kevin Kline and Will Smith in Wild Wild West
Image via Warner Bros.

At first glance, the box office numbers for Wild nature may not seem innately disastrous. The film’s domestic gross of $113.8 million was far below other late 1990s Will Smith blockbusters such as Independence Day And The man in blackbut that was still enough to become the 17th biggest film of 1999 domestically, beating out titles such as This analysis, Inspector GadgetAnd Sleepy Hollows. It also managed to become the 17th biggest film of 1999 at the worldwide box office with a global gross of $221.2 million. For the sake of comparison, the 17th biggest film of 2021 globally is Cruellaprovisionally $225.8 million Wild Wild West that number is similar to a 2022 blockbuster like Bullet Train.

Meanwhile, among Westerners, Wild nature is a box office champ. At the time of its launch, Wild nature was the second-biggest Western in history at the domestic box office, behind only Dance with the wolves (not taking inflation into account). Decades later, a handful of modern Westerners (Revenants, Django Unchained, True Sand, Rango) has surpassed this film, but Wild nature still firmly among the ten greatest Westerners in history. It’s not surprising since then Wild nature is a massively promoted summer blockbuster released over the weekend of the 4th of July and starring Will Smith. Something must have gone horribly wrong for this film to not overtake its North American catch Billy Jack.

The problem, of course, for Wild nature Finance comes with its budget. Among the major blockbusters of 1999, Ghost Threat cost $115 million to build, Mummy has a price tag of $80 million, and Matrix cost only $65 million. On the contrary, Wild nature cost a staggering $175 million to make money in 1999. At the time of its release, Wild nature is one of the most expensive films ever made, titles only like Giant beyond its extraordinary cost. Even today, when every studio spends hundreds of millions on a potential blockbuster, $175 million isn’t much of a change. Wild nature they cost more than the 2019 Marvel movies Spider-Man: Far From Home and roughly on par with the budget Top Weapon: Maverick. That’s before factoring in decades of inflation, of course.

Come to think of it, considering neither Independence Day neither The man in black it cost over $90 million to make, which is ridiculous at all by Warner Bros Wild nature that price tag is far closer to $175 million. Made for that $90 million The man in black cost, Wild nature could be a slightly better-than-usual respectable moneymaker for Westerners. With a budget of $175 million, Wild nature is a huge money loser, even though Warner Bros. never officially disclosed how much money this futile work lost.

Westerners Should Not Be This Expensive

Will Smith and Kevin Kline as Jim West and Artemus Gordon wearing a neck machine and looking terrified in Wild Wild West (1999)
Image via Warner Bros.

Being a big fish in a small pond doesn’t automatically make you a shark. Likewise with Wild nature, which has the highest box office gross of almost any other Western film out there. However, its ridiculous cost also made it one of the biggest box-office bombs in history and a precursor to modern box-office horror stories like Cowboys & Aliens And The Lonely Guardian. It was also the first indication that Will Smith isn’t immune to box office wear and tear, even though it’s the actor who is really feeling the sting Wild nature dropping was Kevin Kline. Having worked his way through the 1990s on various box office hits and scoring a few awards season hits along the way, Wild nature was a major turning point in his career. After that, he shifted to supporting roles appearing only sporadically in live-action films over the next decade. Her days of being seen as someone who could make a movie with Will Smith are over.

It’s the kind of important ripple effect one would expect from a big bomb and a miscalculated company Wild nature. If there’s a silver lining to falling so hard as to change the career trajectory of an actor like Kline, it alerts studios to the need to be frugal. Westerners can make money, there is an audience for these films just like there is an audience for all genres of film. But you have to make it smart and not in a bank-breaking way. There was never any way a $175 million Westerner could have imagined would be profitable. Even after becoming one of the biggest Western films ever at the domestic and world box office, Wild nature still turning into a cautionary tale about rampaging studio spending.

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