The Lone Ranger Bombs: What Happened—the Top 5 Reasons

Too few kids, too little juice and too much Despicable Me 2 leave Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer Western adventure D.O.A. at holiday box office

By Joal Ryan Jul 08, 2013 6:50 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

The Lone Ranger is dead at the box office; long live the finger-pointing.  

Here's a look at how the $200 million-something Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer adventure became the biggest bust of the summer:

1. No Kids, No Dice. Are they selling Lone Ranger toys at Disney Stores? Yes, they are. Are kids going to see The Lone Ranger in theaters? No, they are not. As Deadline reported, more than two-thirds of the opening-weekend audience was Hollywood-ancient, meaning ticket buyers were age 25 and older. And while it's true not all movies are supposed to be for kids, The Lone Ranger shot for—oddly enough, some critics thought, given its penchant for Old West violence—a PG-13 rating. It was supposed to appeal to kids; it just didn't.    

2. The John Carter Problem. The radio-spawned Lone Ranger is a character that—like pulp fiction's John Carter, the subject of the same-titled 2012 bust—was relevant and family-friendly decades ago. Remember how Superman supposedly had gone cold because seven years had passed from Superman Returns and Man of Steel? It'd been 10 years since the WB's aborted attempt to make The Lone Ranger a heartthrob vehicle for primetime and Chad Michael Murray. It's been 32 years since the last big-screen attempt to make the Old West hero a box-office star via the legendarily awful The Legend of the Lone Ranger.     

3. The Bad Buzz Never Turned Good.  Hollywood has been on death watch for The Lone Ranger since at least 2011 when Disney killed the film due to its hefty price tag. While the movie got made, obviously, its budget didn't get small, and its reputation didn't recover—not after its Super Bowl spot fizzled, not after an analyst didn't include it in his picks for the top 12 hits of summer, and certainly not after critics pounced.

4. It Didn't Have Brad Pitt Making Breakfast. World War Z was another big-budget summer movie that was supposedly in trouble. In the end, though, it saved face with a $66.4 million opening weekend. The difference between World War Z and The Lone Ranger? One movie's star looked like his family-man self; the other's didn't look like, well, almost anybody. "Brad Pitt looked like Brad Pitt," box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian says, "I think it got women in there." The Lone Ranger, by contrast, played primarily to men, while, Depp, by contrast, was more concealed than usual as the elaborately made-up Tonto.  

5. Despicable Me 2 Was a Killer: While World War Z went head-to-head with Monsters University, the no-slouch Pixar sequel, The Lone Ranger was tasked with taking on the film that your 6-year-old's been yammering about since the first Minion bus-bench ads went up. "Unbelievable juggernaut" is how Dergarabedian describes Despicable Me 2; third-biggest Fourth of July weekend ever is how the record books note the animated family film. If it makes The Lone Ranger feel better, its $29.4 Friday-Sunday take was bigger than that other big-budget, Independence Day-released, Western-themed disappointment: Will Smith's Wild West West, which opened 14 long years ago, and, all inflationary things considered, sold more tickets and cost less than The Lone Ranger. So, never mind. Right now, nothing is going to make the lonely guy in the saddle feel better.