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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Image via Lucasfilm

The 4 flops of 2023 costing Disney $1 billion, explained

Will Disney ever get back to its box-office glory days of 2019?

Let’s face it: Disney is having a rough year at the box office and on streaming. That may sound strange for a company that owns the rights to properties like Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, but it’s true. Specifically, four over-budget titles can be blamed for Disney’s woes: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and the Disney Plus series Secret Invasion.

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Combined, Disney revealed they spent $965 million on the four properties, and yet, did not necessarily reap the box office or streaming rewards, according to Forbes. Normally, budgets of this nature are kept confidential. However, due to Disney choosing to film in the U.K. in order to take advantage of a 25 percent kickback on production costs that the country offers, the requisite subsidiary studios that filmed each project had to come out with a statement on the budgets. The budgets in question break down as follows:

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – $193.2 million
  • The Little Mermaid – $265.2 million
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – $294.7 million
  • Secret Invasion – $211.6 million

Box-office struggles and streaming woes

ant-man and the wasp quantumania
Image via Marvel Studios

It’s important to note that the notion of Disney “losing $1 billion” due to these expensive projects is a bit of a misnomer. Rather, the billion-dollar figure relates to how much they spent on the properties — the cost. However, since each one is thought to have lost money overall (or just barely broke even), that adds up to Disney being way more in the red than they probably want. How much their balance sheet is in the negative is somewhat debatable, though, since these production figures don’t account for marketing costs.

Even when you factor in the 25 percent kickback, these films range from barely making a profit to downright being in the red. For instance, Forbes explained that Quantumania eked out an estimated $81.9 million profit that we may soon learn was in the negative, after all, after more information comes out about post-production costs. The Little Mermaid is in the same boat, with a meager $70 million profit that may struggle to overcome its yet-to-be-calculated post-production price tag. Dial of Destiny is the worst of the bunch, with it falling short of even making the break-even point.

In terms of Secret Invasion, we don’t have convenient box-office numbers to calculate its lack of profitability like the previously mentioned films. However, the eyebrow-raising $211.6 million budget of the show certainly seems burdensome to Disney when you look at the metrics that are available. For instance, Secret Invasion failed to capture even one million viewers for its debut, making it the second-worst opening to a Marvel streaming series. The final episode’s seven percent Rotten Tomatoes score also gives it the dishonor of being the lowest-rated Marvel Studios entry of all time — of any movie or TV show — and one of the worst-reviewed entries of any superhero adaptation period.

A downward trend

Emilia Clarke as G'iah in 'Secret Invasion'
Screenshot via Marvel Studios/Disney Plus

It is notable that Disney stated the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to causing many of these projects to be over budget, as Forbes pointed out. However, each one of them arguably has similar problems in terms of their over-reliance on CGI that were generally poorly received, which speaks to a deeper systemic issue with modern blockbuster productions. These out-of-control modern budgets create the paradoxical scenario that allowed two Disney flops, including Dial of Destiny, to crack the top 10 global box office this year, as we previously pointed out.

Thanks to Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, both Dial of Destiny and Pixar’s Elemental have since been shouldered out of the top 10 list at the global box office, according to Box Office Mojo. However, other Disney films, like the aforementioned The Little Mermaid and Quantumania, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, are still among the top 10.

To digest just how far Disney has seemingly fallen, consider that none of their major theatrical releases have made a billion dollars at the worldwide box office this year. That might sound like a tall order for any studio, but it once appeared like a cakewalk for Disney. For instance, back in 2019, Disney alone pulled off releasing an incredible seven total billion dollar-grossing films, according to The Numbers (eight if you include the Sony co-production Spider-Man: Far From Home). That includes Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Aladdin (remake), Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and The Lion King (remake).


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Danny Peterson
Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'