Despite the fact that the storytelling went off the rails and the budget’s bloated to bursting, Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy ended up making Disney more money than most spoiled aristocrats will see in their lifetime. Given his rep as a franchise builder, I thought it was pretty shocking when Disney recently pulled the plug on his upcoming movie The Lone Ranger. Yeah, a $250m budget is ridiculously high for a movie about a couple of guys on horses, but with Verbinski teaming back up with his Pirates star Johnny Depp, and The Lone Ranger already being a property that people are familiar with, I figured this project would be bullet proof.

Not so, as according to THR, a Lone Ranger with a $250m budget would have to hit upwards of $800 million to make a profit after all of the necessary marketing costs and shady backroom money trading were handled. Despite the fact that a movie needing to make more than three times its budget to turn a profit is ridiculous, and the surest sign that the studio system is broken, that’s just the way it is. And with John Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens not coming close to that number this summer, pumping so much money into a Western isn’t a risk Disney is looking to take, even in their Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland magic man Johnny Depp is on board.

Verbinski isn’t taking the kibosh being put on his movie lying down, however. He’s already trimmed the fat by reducing his and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s fees by $10m. But a film costing $240m just isn’t going to get the job done either. Disney is looking for something closer to $215 or maybe $220m. That’s going to have to come from rewrites of the script, which Verbinski is reportedly currently doing. As is, the movie has a handful of supernatural elements, like Native American werewolves, that are probably bloating the budget. That just sounds weird. They can probably be gotten rid of to shave a few million. And reportedly there are several train sequences that are so big they may be the grandest ever conceived of for film; if they were rewritten to be less ridiculous that might lead to a big chunk of change being saved. How about we do a nice stagecoach chase instead?

Can he do it? Can Gore Verbinski step up and save our masked man? I guess you’ll just have to tune in next week to find out.

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