The Lesson Of ‘The Lone Ranger’

There will be much debate and hand-wringing over the relative box office failure of Disney’s The Lone Ranger over this past July 4th weekend. The film grossed $48 million over its first five days in America, along with around $24 million in limited overseas release. The pattern for July 4th debuts is generally around 2x their respective long weekend totals, which gives The Lone Ranger around $100 million domestic. Even if it becomes the rare film to gross just over $100 million domestic and still muster $300 million+ overseas (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader), the film is still going to be a money loser for the Mouse House. Why? Because they spent ‘sequel money’ on their first installment.

Yes, the initial reviews were pretty lousy and westerns have a generally limited ceiling at the domestic and global box office. And sure the film’s violent content led to pundits warning parents not to take their kids and Johnny Depp casting himself as Tonto left the film wide-open to charges of ‘race bending’ (Depp allegedly has Cherokee heritage to the extent that it matters in this case). None of these things helped the final result, nor did a somewhat blah marketing campaign that took three prior mediocre trailers to finally put out a fourth scorcher. All of these things are problematic, but the chief cause of concern is that The Lone Ranger cost anywhere from $220 million to $250 million, which meant it had to have all of its proverbial ducks in a row just to break even. With costs like that, everything had to go right.