Movie theaters have long been a friendly place for nostalgia, including recent reboots like "Jurassic World" and the increasing dominance of franchises and sequels, but one piece of '80s nostalgia just bombed in historic fashion: "Jem and the Holograms." Universal pulled it from theaters after just two weeks — which Exhibitor Relations says is unheard of for a wide release.
The movie rebooted the 1980s cartoon "Jem," changing the context from pop star with a secret identity as a record exec, to being about a teen who becomes a YouTube star against her will. (Wait, there's someone who doesn't want to be a YouTube star?)
The movie was largely panned, with many critics saying the film actively trolled the older millennial fans of the original show while failing to do enough to attract a new, young audience, despite making a big push for that crowd with outreach on sites like Snapchat and Tumblr — scoring a 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 42 percent on Metacritic.
The movie came in 15th place its first weekend in theaters, taking in $1.37 million on 2,413 screens, according to Box Office Mojo. The week after that, on 2,417 screens, it made $387,925 — $160 per screen. So, you could go buy a dozen albums from successful pop musicians instead of going to see a fictional failure in theaters.
Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock explained to Business Insider that theaters are contractually obligated to hold a film for two weeks after booking — but he'd never seen Universal do something like what they did with this movie, which is to stop reporting box office totals after those two weeks.
"This is unprecedented, and shows just how badly this film flopped. Not only is it the lowest-grossing debut for a studio film this year, but it's the worst all-time — by a considerable margin — for any film released in 2,000-plus theaters," Bock said.
The movie is still technically on about 50 screens, but did so terribly in its third week that its studio, Universal, isn't even bothering to report how much money it made. Even if it did just as well per screen as it did the previous week, that would still only be around $8,000. The budget was only $5 million, so it's not an all-time money suck, but it doesn't look to be following former Hasbro toy-based movies "G.I. Joe" and "Transformers" into franchise territory.
Another movie that has limped along at the box office and took a big dive in theaters this week: "Steve Jobs," the Aaron Sorkin-written/Danny Boyle-directed prestige picture. It was dropped from 2,072 theaters from week to week, according to Box Office Mojo, though it still managed to come in where "Jem" did its first week — 15th place.
The movie had done well in early release both in Los Angeles and New York City, Variety reported.
Apparently the public wasn't ready to click on a biopic about the Apple co-founder. Unlike "Jem," it scored excellent reviews — an 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an 82 percent on Metacritic. Still, the hope of awards season means that "Steve Jobs" might get a second chance.
Meanwhile, an uptick in "Jem" business would be truly outrageous.