A look at how movies that are disaster films in more ways than one end up getting made.
In the flair and hysteria that surrounds the grand opening of films it may be easy to overlook the failings that also take place elsewhere on movie screens. This weekend all manner of hype was surrounding the release of Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time”. The $100 million epic production was up against the behemoth hit film that has been the “Black Panther” success.
But this battle of blockbusters overshadowed a number of other titles also debuting in theaters but flamed out in flashy fashion. One in particular was a dismal disaster-action thriller titled “The Hurricane Heist”.
That misbegotten action piece had no chance and was easily trampled by the competition. As those big-named films drew tens of millions of dollars in their contest for dominance this also-ran production opened in the #9 position as it earned an embarrassing $3.1 million.
Sporting a confounding tagline — “$600 million Stolen at 600 Miles Per Hour!” — this title promised to be a challenge for common sense, and/or basic meteorology. It did not disappoint in this fashion.
Starring lightly regarded actors (Toby Kebbell from the disastrous “Fantastic Four”, and Maggie Grace of “Lost” and the “Twilight” series of films) the cast is put through some head-scratching scenarios. In one sequence a character is out in 140 mile per winds that are shown to be flipping cars down a street — but the plastic letters on a movie marquee remain in place. In another scene our hero, with a hurricane-chasing car built like a tank, rediscovers the car after a flood, then huddles up on the hood instead of taking refuge inside the protective vehicle.
(SPOILER Alert, should anyone dare see this fiasco.)
The climax involves three semis outrunning the heavy winds in the eye of the hurricane. The storm manages to draw in two of the semis driven by the villains, but not our heroes. This despite the fact the haulers were driving side by side on the same highway, at the same time. No, this is not a film that is entirely dedicated to the laws of physics.
It may seem a complete money-losing venture on a film that will likely be forgotten, save for those damaged souls who savor classically bad films. (Note: Meaning “myself”) However the amazing truth is not only will this film not be a complete financial disaster, there may be profits afoot for the various investors. This is due to the curiously complex structure that was put in place to have this film made in the first place. It is part of why Hollywood economics fascinates so much.
“The Hurricane Heist” got its start years ago, in February 2016 at The European Film Market. The property was shopped around for foreign distribution by the financing company, Foresight Unlimited. There is a reason it was called a “property”, and not a “film”. At the time entitled “Category 5”, the story of a heist caper taking place during a massive hurricane would be written and directed by Hollywood veteran Rob Cohen (“The Fast & The Furious; “xXx”). The movie had yet to begin casting at this stage — there had not even been a script created by time. However that did not impede buyers from coming aboard the project.
By the end of the market the prospective film project had sold distribution deals to Germany, Scandinavia, Latin America, and ten other foreign territories. This is a not uncommon practice for small-scale films with a limited exposure in America. Usually some familiar names are in the cast, and the film is given token exposure in the States so it can then be marketed overseas as a “Hollywood Release”. The budget is set according to those advance sales and only then is the project put into production. Money was saved by using lower-rung actors, and shooting the bulk of the film in Bulgaria.
The American release is handled by Entertainment Studios, a primarily television-involved production outfit that has recently entered into film distribution. Following a moderate hit last summer with “47 Meters Down” the company purchased the North American rights of “Heist” for under $10 million. The distributor made some significant ad buys (in excess of $5 million) and even sponsored a car at this year’s Daytona 500.
A conservative estimate would be the movie needing to clear $35-40 million in total domestically to start earning a profit for Entertainment Studios. This is not going to happen. However Foresight should be in fine shape as far as its investment. It delivered the product as promised, and those foreign markets should be more forgiving than those stateside.
You may encounter films like this at say a RedBox DVD kiosk, or made available on a streaming service, and you see recognizable stars in a film you have never heard of prior. This is commonly the practice, where much of the budget is used for a bankable star, or for computer effects that otherwise would have been too costly for a production company.
The intent is not to make a splash in the American marketplace, but to make make a movie that has just enough of the elements — famous enough stars, splashy computer visuals, a US distribution, and a really compelling movie poster — which would generate presale capital to justify a shooting budget. These titles most likely become forgettable to movie audiences, but they occasionally become memorable as cinematic fiascos.
“The Hurricane Heist” is just such a fiasco.