When an actor makes big bucks–and his movies don’t–it can spell trouble for his star power. Take Mark Wahlberg, whose hefty upfront paychecks resulted in a $68 million pretax payday this year–more than the worldwide gross of his 2016 Boston Marathon bombing biopic, Patriots Day.
Thanks to a string of box office disappointments, Wahlberg is this year’s most overpaid actor: His three wide releases prior to June 1, 2017, returned just $4.40 at the box office for every $1 he was paid on them. With disappointments including 2016’s oil spill drama Deepwater Horizon, which barely out-earned its estimated $110 million budget, Wahlberg’s multi-million dollar paydays look mighty expensive. (The more recent Transformers: The Last Knight and Daddy’s Home 2 both hit theaters after our scoring period.)
This year’s all-male ranking of Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Actors is dominated by stars such as Wahlberg whose historic success has warranted eight figure quotes, even when their recent movies fail to perform. To compile our rundown, we looked at the last three films each actor starred in prior to June 1, 2017, leaving out animated films, movies in which the actor had a small role, or movies that were shown on fewer than 2,000 screens. Movies released after June 1, 2017, were not considered.
We then deducted the estimated production budget from the global box office for each film per Box Office Mojo and divided that by the star’s estimated pay to come up with a return on investment figure. We used earnings data from Forbes’ annual Celebrity 100 ranking of highest-paid entertainers and did not include actors unless they had starred in a new eligible movie since last year’s scoring period.
Wahlberg edges second-ranked Christian Bale, who nabs a spot on the overpaid ranking because of Armenian genocide flop The Promise. The big-budget epic earned back an estimated 11% of its $90 million-plus production costs, making it one of the worst-performing wide releases of the year. Bale returned a dismal $6.70 at the ticketing booth for every $1 he earned from his recent movies.
It’s not just costly flicks that go in the red: Small budget movies that fail to make a splash can mean poor returns for their actors. Despite his comparatively modest paychecks, Channing Tatum comes in at No. 3 among the most overpaid and created a mediocre $7.60 at the box office for every $1 he earned in recent films. That’s due in part to 2017’s Logan Lucky, which grossed just $46.7 million on a $29 million budget. The Steven Soderbergh-directed heist movie drew positive reviews but few viewers to the multiplex, hence Tatum’s inclusion.
Denzel Washington (No. 4) closed out 2016 with an Oscar nomination for August Wilson adaptation Fences, in which he played a father struggling with his familial relationships. It grossed $57.7 million domestically but a low international tally coupled with last year’s expensive misfire, The Magnificent Seven, warranted Washington’s inclusion. He earned back $10.40 at the box office for every $1 he was paid in recent films.
Rounding out the list is Brad Pitt, who generated $11.50 at the box office for every $1 he was paid in his last three wide releases. The Academy Award winner has had a mediocre showing at the ticketing booth of late; 2016’s period thriller Allied flopped, grossing just $119.5 million on estimated production costs of $85 million.
The World’s Highest-Paid Actors And Actresses 2017
While these returns sound exceptional to stock or bond investors, Hollywood accounting means they are far worse than they seem. Studios and exhibitors must split global box office totals; add in multi-million dollar publicity and release costs not included in production budgets and films quickly become more expensive.
Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Actors ranking examined both male and female actors. But even among the highest-paid, women frequently earn less than their male counterparts in Tinseltown. This means women rarely achieve the fatal combination of a giant salary on a box office flop that leads to a spot on the overpaid list.
Forbes’ annual ranking of Hollywood’s Best Actors For The Buck will be published tomorrow.
Natalie Robehmed has been a regular contributor to forbes