Box Office Bombs

Ellen E Jones and Mark Kermode explore big budget flops, from Ishtar to Cats.

Ishtar – writer and director Elaine May’s huge budget comedy starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman – was released in May 1987. The film, about a pair of incompetent singer-songwriters who become entangled in a CIA plot in north Africa, tanked at the box office and ultimately put paid to May’s directing career. In the process the word Ishtar became a joke - that title alone symbolising Hollywood hubris at its worst. But, as May put it, "If all the people who hate Ishtar had seen it, I would be a rich woman."

Thirty five years on, Mark asks culture critic Lindsay Zoladz and comedian and director Richard Ayoade whether Ishtar is ripe for reappraisal.

And Ellen draws up a set of rules to help Hollywood studio bosses avoid box office bombs in 2022, running them past Film Stories founder Simon Brew and Hollywood super-producer Lynda Obst.

Also, controversial director Gaspar Noe shares his Viewing Notes.