Ghost in the Shell has been one of the most talked about movies, ever since it was announced, but not necessarily for the right reasons. From the moment that superstar Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role as the Major, the film was dogged by accusations of whitewashing. Since the original manga and anime were created in Japan, many people were offended that a white American actress got the role. Although Scarlett Johansson dismissed the controversy, saying that people should just focus on the quality of the film itself, the debate continued. Paramount stood behind the casting of Johansson but now they’re admitting that the whitewashing issue hurt their bottom line. The movie opened to a mere $19 million its first weekend.
Paramount distribution chief Kyle Davies said, “We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews. You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. So, you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly the reviews didn’t help.”
Ghost in the Shell was trounced at the box office last weekend, coming in third behind The Boss Baby and Beauty and the Beast. As of today, the film has brought in only $23 million domestically and $50.6 million internationally, garnering a worldwide tally of $73.6 million.
Deadline has predicted that the film will make $200 million worldwide, with $50 million domestically and $150 million overseas. The budget for Ghost in the Shell was announced as $110 million, but when you add in the publicity and advertising budget, the total budget was approximately $250 million. If this prediction is accurate, the studio will lose $50 million on this project.
Although the studio has said the whitewashing controversy was the reason for the dismal box office return –which is no doubt partly the truth—there could be other reasons, too. The reviews weren’t exactly enthusiastic. Critics were unimpressed by the anime adaption. It currently sits at a mediocre 47% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This combine one-two punch of bad reviews and accusations of racial insensitivity clearly caused Ghost in the Shell to fall far short of expectations.