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‘Blockbuster’ Jerry Bruckheimer splits with Disney as power pairing fades

Hollywood studio to cut its losses after ‘The Lone Ranger’ proves costly

It was a partnership which generated blockbusters grossing $10 billion and redefined the high-octane action movie. But now Disney has parted company with Jerry Bruckheimer after the failure of The Lone Ranger forced the "Mouse House" to cut its losses.

Walt Disney Studios and Bruckheimer, the producer behind blockbusters including Top Gun, The Rock and Pirates of the Caribbean, announced that they will not renew their "first-look" deal when it expires next year.

The divorce ends a partnership which began in the early 90s and has delivered high "high-concept", pulse-racing hits including Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Pearl Harbor and Con Air.

The 27 films Bruckheimer, 69, produced for Disney took more than $10 billion at the global box office, with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise alone accounting for $3.7 billion.

However Bruckheimer's star had fallen within Disney and the failure of The Lone Ranger, this Summer’s flop Western revival starring Johnny Depp, appears to have prompted a parting of the ways.

Disney halted production on the $225 million film to reduce its costs and has been left with $190 million of losses after it finally opened to negative reviews in July.

Bruckheimer failed to deliver "tentpole" films in recent years, following the relative worldwide box office failure of expensive productions such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and G-Force.

Disney said it will focus on producing branded franchise films from Pixar, superhero stable Marvel and its latest acquisition, Lucasfilm, with a seventh Star Wars film due to launch in 2015.

The entertainment giant wants a conveyor belt of live action and animation franchise hits which can be converted into television, theme park and consumer product spin-offs.

Bruckheimer, famed for delivering explosive thrills, often at the expense of subtlety and characterisation, is looking to produce a slate of "more mature" films outside of Disney.

Stalled projects with the studio include Apaches, a book adaptation about renegade police in New York City who take the law into their own hands.

Disney and Bruckheimer will continue working together on various projects including the fifth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean, delayed because of budget concerns and script issues, as well as a third film in the National Treasure series.

Bruckheimer, who earned $80 million last year according to Forbes, and also produced the CSI television franchise, is developing a Top Gun sequel with Paramount and is expected to oversee a fourth Beverly Hills Cop film.

Bruckheimer said he was "very appreciative of the wonderful collaboration and support I have had at the Walt Disney Company for over twenty years" and said they would continue to work together on future projects including Pirates of the Caribbean. The producer said he looked forward to "returning to films like Black Hawk Down, Enemy of the State, Beverly Hills Cop and The Rock."

Alan Horn, chairman of Disney Studios, hailed "an incredibly successful collaboration over the past two decades". He admitted: "The Lone Ranger certainly didn't help things, but we all have our wins and our losses, and this is an overall thing related to the company's supply of projects from all these other places. This is about a long-term relationship with lots of pluses and minuses."

Bruckheimer said of the reception which greeted The Lone Ranger. "You learn more from your failures than you do your successes. The audience tells you what works and what doesn't. If there are things in movies we think we could have done better, you hope to imprint that on the next movie."

Bruckheimer box office hits…

Top Gun, 1986

Budget $15m

Box office $357m

Thrilling aerial sequences fuel testosterone-packed, bombastic Tom Cruise vehicle, which sets the template for Bruckheimer’s thunderous action blockbusters.

Armageddon, 1998

Budget $140m

Box office $554m

Bruce Willis versus a gigantic asteroid. “An assault on the eyes, ears, brain and common sense,” says critic Roger Ebert.

Con Air, 1997

Budget $75m

Box office $224m

Nicolas Cage in plane hijack – described  as “pure action-thriller pornography” that delivers at the  box office.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, 2006

Budget $225m

Box office $1.07bn

Depp sequel ensured Pirates became the first franchise to produce a $1bn-grossing movie. The series has grossed $3.72bn worldwide.

... and misses

The Lone Ranger, 2013 

Budget $250m

Box office $245m

Bruckheimer blamed the critics. Disney described box office return as ‘very disappointing’.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, 2010

Budget $150m

Box office $215m

Fantasy adventure that Disney hoped would launch a franchise.

Kangaroo Jack, 2003

Budget $60m

Box office $89m

Even the presence of Christopher Walken failed to lift this preposterous comedy film about mob bosses who run into a flatulent kangaroo in the Australian outback.