Why Fathers' Day Failed At The Box Office Despite Robin Williams & Billy Crystal

If there is one lesson that Hollywood never seems to learn, it's that having at least one big star attached to a movie doesn't guarantee box office success. In fact, there are few things a movie studio can do to make sure that their latest release does gangbusters at the box office. They can drop money on a glitzy marketing campaign centering a film's big stars all they want, but, if a movie doesn't look particularly intriguing to audiences, it doesn't matter all that much.

That is likely at the center of why "Fathers' Day," a 1997 star vehicle for Robin Williams and Billy Crystal directed by Ivan Reitman was a massive flop. The plot was a bit of a strange one, with the two actors playing strangers who were brought together to locate a missing boy they were led to believe was their long-lost son. Then again, a movie being strange can certainly be a part of its charm, thus leading audiences to the box office. Add that to the fact the film featured Williams and Crystal during a high point in their respective careers, it seems strange that the film only grossed $35.7 million at the worldwide box office against a budget of $85 million. How did it happen? Well, it was a few different things.

Unrealistic expectations on all ends

Let's talk about the obvious issue with "Fathers' Day," and that is its budget. For such a low-stakes movie, it seems bizarre that it had a budget of $85 million (via The Numbers). While specifics on this budget aren't well-known, it's likely that a significant portion of it went to pay Williams, Crystal, and Reitman for their participation. There are also the cameos from pop-rock band Sugar Ray to take into account, as they had just hit the mainstream at the time. Regardless, given the plot and events of the movie, it seems like $85 million was too egregious of a price tag, at least in hindsight.

There's also the fact that it wasn't the only movie released during its opening weekend. "Fathers' Day" was in direct competition with the sci-fi epic "The Fifth Element," which opened to around $17 million in its first American weekend. For comparison's sake, "Fathers' Day" opened to approximately $8.8 million that same weekend. Even more humiliating was the fact that "The Fifth Element," which featured grand technological landscapes and then-cutting-edge special effects, only cost five million more to make than "Fathers' Day" and brought in a total box office gross of $263.9 million (via Box Office Mojo). To make matters even more baffling, it ended up being released on Mother's Day weekend instead of its titular holiday weekend.

Not everything can be fixed

Ultimately, however, the most reasonable explanation for the bombing of "Fathers' Day" was that it just wasn't a good movie. Williams and Crystal could not save the film from its tonally awkward script, and even then, audiences had seen them give much better performances in other movies released around the same time (for instance, "The Birdcage" came out the year before in 1996). Regardless of the other elements working against it, the thing that kept "Fathers' Day" from succeeding at the box office was the fact that it just didn't seem like a worthwhile movie to prospective audiences.

Those who ended up actually seeing it felt the same way. It got negative reviews from critics upon its release, and even to this day, it only holds a 5.2 rating on IMDb from its users. According to an unnamed Warner Bros. executive interviewed in an issue of Premiere, the studio didn't have much confidence in it either, as multiple reshoots and re-edits were allegedly made in order to salvage it. However, as that executive said, "You can't fix something that's bad," and therefore, "Fathers' Day" was destined to be barely remembered as a box office flop.