P.J. Gladnick builds an April 18 NewsBusters post out of the claim that the movie "Che" "has turned out to be one of the worst box office bombs in film history," on the scale of the infamous "Heaven's Gate."
What does Gladnick botch in his attack?
1. Gladnick claims that "Che" and "Heaven's Gate" were made on similar budgets and lost a similar amount of money, but fails to index "Heaven's Gate" for inflation. As Wikipedia notes, "Heaven's Gate's" $40 million cost in 1979 is equivalent to about $120 million today," which means that "Heaven's Gate" cost three times as much to make -- and lost three times as much money -- than "Che." Indeed, the $39 million loss Gladnick claims "Che" has taken is not even in the ballpark of bombs by today's standards: As Wikipedia states, "The biggest box office bomb in terms of dollars spent that were not recouped is 'Alexander' with a loss of $120,702,809."
2. Unlike "Che" (rated at 63% at Rotten Tomatoes), "Heaven's Gate" got uniformly bad reviews and contributed to the collapse of a movie studio.
3. Gladnick baselessly posits that a movie's quality is measured by its popularity. At no point does Gladnick discuss the artistic merits of the movie, let alone suggest that any movie might have artistic merit. For instance, "Citizen Kane" did not make a profit on its initial release -- the same basis upon which Gladnick is declaring "Che" to be a failure -- yet it's heralded as one of the greatest movies ever made. We're not saying that "Che" is as good as "Citizen Kane" (heck, we haven't even seen "Che"), just illustrating the failure of profit as an reliable indicator of cinematic quality. Hey, "Batman and Robin" made a profit, so Gladnick must believe that it's a great film, right?