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The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Box Office: Spielbergian Fantasy Minus the Blockbuster Grosses

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Alex EtelThe Water Horse: Legend of the Deep with Alex Etel: Scottish-set fantasy was clearly inspired by Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (along with decades-old “boy/girl and their non-human companion” tales like Lassie Come Home, Mighty Joe Young, and Old Yeller).
  • The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep box office: Jay Russell’s Spielbergian fantasy drama has failed to generate Spielbergian grosses despite its impressive special effects, stunning Scottish locations, generally capable cast, and positive reviews.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep box office: Spielberg-like fantasy drama fails to generate Spielberg-like revenues

Set in Scotland – of Loch Ness fame – during World War II, Jay Russell’s boy-and-his-underwater-monster fantasy drama The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (a.k.a. The Water Horse) has grossed a mere $41 million at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office, as per (updated final) figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

That’s particularly disappointing for a well-regarded, special-effects-laden production reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – but with the “alien” creature coming from below instead of from above.

Internationally, The Water Horse fared only slightly better: $63 million, for a worldwide total of $104 million – not quite enough for it to break even at the box office alone. Its top territories were the United Kingdom/Ireland ($9.5 million), France ($6.8 million), Australia ($5.3 million), and Mexico ($4.2 million).

It’s all relative

For comparison’s sake: Though not the exact same sort of story, Ron Underwood’s 1998 Mighty Joe Young remake – featuring Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, and her giant gorilla – scored $50.6 million domestically. (International figures are unavailable.)

In relative terms, even while taking inflation into account, that was a far worse commercial performance than that of The Water Horse. After all, Mighty Joe Young cost a hefty $90 million vs. The Water Horse’s $40 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).

The Water Horse features Alex Etel as the boy, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey, Brian Cox, and two-time Best Actress Academy Award nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, 1996; Hilary and Jackie, 1998) as the boy’s concerned (later astonished) mother.

An aside: Also in late 2007, another (admittedly, radically different) fantasy featuring a human child and her oversized nonhuman companion underperformed in the domestic market: Chris Weitz’s mega-budget The Golden Compass.


The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Box Office: Spielbergian Fantasy Minus the Blockbuster Grosses” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).

Comments about The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Alex Etel The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep movie image: Sony Pictures.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Box Office: Spielbergian Fantasy Minus the Blockbuster Grosses” last updated in October 2022.

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