Johnny Depp

HOLLYWOOD — “The Lone Ranger” was taken out of production because of its original $300 million price tag. Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films grossed billions of dollars for Disney; even so, execs should have gone with their first instinct on this one. Jerry Bruckheimer cut $50 million from the budget to get Disney to put it back into production. Still, didn’t the mouse house think $250 million was too much for a Western? How much can horses, open range, a couple of actors to play bad guys and a mask for the title character cost? And what about that outlandish make-up Depp chose for Tonto? People complained they had to look away every time he had a close-up.

When Disney balked at Depp’s over-the-top Jack Sparrow in “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” he refused to tone it down. They were relieved when Jack Sparrow was applauded. Shooting “The Lone Ranger” cost $250 million, while promoting it cost $150 million (for a total of $400 million). But it made less than $124 million worldwide, and with little interest overseas, no wonder it’s considered a bomb.
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“White House Down,” with Oscar-winner Jamie Fox and People Magazine’s No. 1 heartthrob Channing Tatum, cost $150 million to shoot and $125 million to promote. It grossed less than $90 million. “After Earth” cost $130 million to make and $100 million to promote. But it wasn’t quite as bad as the others; it took in $215 million at the box office. There’s still a chance the studios can recoup a large part of their investment when these films are released on DVD.

Unlike “The Lone Ranger,” “Pacific Rim,” which opened July 12 to a mere $90 million at the box office (with a $190 million-plus price tag), will probably find another $300 million overseas, where it’s expected to do very well. “The Wolverine,” which cost $100 million-plus, opened strong July 26 and is expected to clean up, especially overseas, where the “X-Men” franchise is very popular.

August will bring “2 Guns” ($90 million) with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg; “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” ($100 million); and “Elysium” ($120 million) with Matt Damon and Jody Foster, to name a few of the most expensive films. Of the above, only “Pacific Rim” and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is in 3D, though it’s doubtful 3D would have helped. However, Brad Pitt’s “World War Z,” with all its delays and reshoots, cost $190 million to make, yet it took in $427 million. It really says something when zombies can bring in more bucks than Johnny Depp!

© 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.