Movies & TV / Columns

Why Did King Arthur Fail at the Box Office?

May 15, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
King Arthur Legend of the Sword

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continued its box office domination this weekend. What could be a little perplexing is how King Arthur: Legend of the Sword managed to flop as bad as it did.

King Arthur made only $14.7 million from a $175 million production budget. The mythical epic starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role was critically savaged and currently holds a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Director Guy Ritchie came up short with with the project that has taken eight years to get to the big screen. Warner Bros. shares the damage that King Arthur will cause along with Village Roadshow, who continues to have terrible luck after its co-financing on Ghostbusters, In the Heart of the Sea, and Passengers

You may or may not remember that Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney pushed their version of King Arthur to the big screen back in 2004. Same results and something Ritchie and Warner Bros. could have learned from. It had a budget of $120 million and finished with $203,567,857 worldwide. Their version tried to reinterpret the legendary Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. It was as bad as it sounds.

So what happened this time?

The King Arthur legend is a timeless tale that has plenty of entertainment for modern audiences. You’d think Hollywood would be able to tap into that potential and launch a fairly decent franchise.

Let’s take a look at their Arthur, brought to life by Charlie “I’ll always be known as the guy from Sons of Anarchy” Hunnam. While still building his brand, Hunnam has a certain charisma and I don’t believe this flop will sink him in Hollywood. It’s not doing him any favors but his best roles remain in front of him.

If we’re looking for the cause, it’s not that hard to figure out. Deadline reported that sources say it’s the post-Jeff Robinov era administration on the Burbank lot (preceding now president-chief content officer Toby Emmerich) who per one close unnamed source “didn’t care about storytelling and ham-fisted” this King Arthur together with not accepting Ritchie’s style over substance technique.

In the process of getting King Arthur made, Warner Bros. went through a number of versions, even to the point of getting Colin Farrell to play King Arthur and Gary Oldman as Merlin.

Blame can also be placed on the studio marketing team, which never really gave audiences a strong idea of what to expect. We saw plenty of signature Ritchie edits but nothing that hooked us in and made this movie move to the top of our “must see” lists.

When it comes to these medieval sword movies, one has to consider the impact Game of Thrones plays. Are people more or less inclined to see a movie similar to the HBO classic if it doesn’t look as good or as engaging? While the trailers were flashy, King Arthur felt like something you could wait to see on your TV when it came out. Hardly the stuff of legend.

What do you think? Does King Arthur ever have a chance at finding success at the box office or is it time to put the sword back in the stone?