Movies That Have Low Rotten Tomatoes Scores But Do Well In Theaters: ‘Ben-Hur’ Fails But ‘When The Bough Breaks’ Succeeds

No one was really surprised that 2016 Ben-Hur remake has done as poorly as it has in the theaters. After all, it has a low 27 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes (RT). To date, the movie has only slightly made up a fourth of the cost it took to make the film in ticket sales (Budget: $100,000,000 vs. Gross: $25,573,081* so far). The low success makes sense when you compare the numbers to the 1959 version of the film with an 88 percent “fresh” score (Budget: $15,900,000 vs. Gross: $70,000,000). It would seem to reason that if a movie receives a low Rotten Tomatoes score, its earnings should be low as well. However, that isn’t always the case.

The original 1983 National Lampoon’s Vacation movie, which starred Chevy Chase, has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 93 percent. The film was made with a budget slightly less than 1959’s Ben-Hur and, not surprisingly, made $61,400,000 gross. The movie was rebooted last summer with a budget twice as big as the original but with a much lower RT score of just 26 percent. If the model above was correct for all movies, the 2015 Vacation should have done poorly in theaters, but instead, it made $58,879,132! Even 1997’s Vegas Vacation, which has an even lower RT score of 13 percent, has made a profit (Budget: $25,000,000 vs. Gross $36,429,528).

Even Vegas Vacation, which has a low Rotten Tomatoes score, made money. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This last weekend, When the Bough Breaks opened in theaters. The movie has an incredibly low Rotten Tomatoes score of 0 percent (as there is no critic’s consensus yet) but it doesn’t look good. Michael Lomax of the Albany Herald compares it to a Lifetime movie. Be that as it may, Bough has already made $14,202,323 in theaters, surpassing its budget of just $10,000,000. Other films that have done well with a 0 percent RT rating include 1994’s A Low Down Dirty Shame (Budget: $10,000,000 vs. Gross: $29,391,418) and 2009’s Homecoming (Budget: $1,500,000 vs. Gross: $8,500,000).

Sometimes a movie makes money, but not enough to be considered a real success, at least in the eyes of the movie studio. This year’s DC Comics/Warner Bros. tent pole movie, Batman v Superman, has a 27 percent RT rating, a budget of $250,000,000, and made $330,249,062 gross. That’s not terrible, but it was lower than what Warner Bros. was expecting. Compare that with this summer’s release of Suicide Squad. That movie has a slightly lower RT rating (26 percent) but also a much lower budget of $175,000,000 and has almost made as much as Batman v Superman ($307,480,891 so far).


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And then there are the head-scratchers like the 1979 version of The Amityville Horror movie which starred James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger. It has an RT rating of just 24 percent and was made with just $4,700,000 but made an incredible gross of $86,432,520. It’s no wonder that a remake was made in 2005 that starred Ryan Reynolds. It, too, made money, but the payoff pales in comparison (Budget: $19,000,000 vs Gross: $64,255,243).

Other surprising results of movies with low Rotten Tomatoes scoring but high grosses include:

  • Double Jeopardy (1999) RT Score: 25 percent Budget: $70,000,000 Gross: $116,735,231
  • Scooby-Doo (2002) RT Score: 30 percent Budget: $84,000,000 Gross: $153,288,182
  • Facing the Giants (2006) RT Score: 13 percent Budget: $100,000 Gross: $10, 174,663
  • Halloween (2007) RT Score: 25 percent Budget: $15,000,000 Gross: $58,267,261
  • Bedtime stories (2008) RT Score: 25 percent Budget: $80,000,000 Gross: $109,993,847
  • Identity Thief (2013) RT Score: 19 percent Budget: $35,000,000 Gross: $134,455,175
  • Monuments Men (2014) RT Score: 30 percent Budget: $70,000,000 Gross: $78,031,620
  • Ride Along (2014) RT Score: 19 percent Budget: $25,000,000 – Gross: $134,141,530
  • Let’s Be Cops (2014) RT Score: 19 percent Budget: $17,000,000 – Gross: $82,389,560

(*As reported on IMDb)

[Image via Sony Pictures]

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