Keanu Reeves' samurai flick 47 Ronin looks set to emerge as one of the biggest box-office bombs of 2013 after the $175m (£106m) film took just $7m in its US debut over the Christmas period.
Variety reports that Hollywood studio Universal is poised to write off huge losses on Carl Rinsch's film, which had already opened poorly in Japan ahead of its Christmas Day North American bow. With a total global haul of only $13m so far, 47 Ronin is the worst performing film with a budget of more than $150m in 2013, according to the trade bible.
The movie is based on Japan's national myth, the story of a group of early 18th-century samurai who became leaderless warriors – ronin – after their master was forced to kill himself by court official Kira Yoshinaka. The warriors waited a year before mounting an attack on 14 December 1702, murdering Yoshinaka, turning themselves in and then committing ritual suicide.
The Hollywood version adds fantasy elements such as giants and witches into the mix and also finds space for Kai, a half-Japanese, half-British character played by Reeves who does not feature in the original story. The film's disappointing performance in Japan is perhaps unsurprising, given the the national renown of a tale previously adapted on a number of occasions for the big screen.
The movie has also endured a troubled production period, with commercials director Rinsch reportedly removed from the editing suite at one point in favour of Universal's co-chair Donna Langley. The move was made to allow reshoots after the film-maker turned in a cut in which Reeves' character was entirely absent from the film's climactic scenes. The martial-arts epic's release was also delayed by more than a year, and critics have so far given it short shrift.
"Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment," a studio spokesperson told Variety. "In the case of 47 Ronin, we adjusted film costs in previous quarters and as a result our financial performance will not be negatively impacted this quarter by its theatrical performance."
Rinsch's film is just the latest Hollywood blockbuster to run into trouble this year. Rival studio Disney has faced losses of around $200m on the Jonny Depp western The Lone Ranger, despite Gore Verbinski's film taking $260m globally. Rinsch's film already looks set for a far smaller haul.
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