Men in Black Screenwriter Takes Aim at Hollywood Accounting (Again)

Ed Solomon, the screenwriter behind Columbia's notorious 1997 flop Men in Black, which clearly destroyed the careers of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (best known for The Fugitive), took to social media today to share the bad news that the 22-year-old sci-fi comedy had once again lost money during the last earnings period. Home entertainment receipts on the movie were likely hurt by the release of a fourth installment in the franchise, which starred Thor: Ragnarok actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson -- exactly the kind of actors you get when you're operating on a shoestring budget with no faith in the product.

That's all completely absurd, of course, but it is more or less the narrative that big studios routinely push in order to avoid paying participants in their big-budget tentpoles their contractually-mandated share of the profits. Solomon tends to take to Twitter and have a little fun with the fanciful math involved whenever the statements show up.

"The greatest work of science fiction I’ve ever been involved with - my Men in Black profit statement - arrived for the holidays," Solomon tweeted today. "Sadly, it lost six times what it lost last period. Impressive for a movie that hasn’t been out in 22 years. Unless it’s been sneaking out. Yeah, that’s it."

Back in June, when Men in Black International was in its theatrical window, Solomon shared that his previous statement listed "Distribution fees, distribution expenses, direct cost, pre-break participations and deferments, supervisory fee, interest, [and] over-budget charges," which meant that the movie was still in the red more than 20 years after its initial release.

He joked at the time that the release of a third sequel to such a catastrophic failure "confirms, as I've always said, that the big studios are only in it for the art."

...Maybe that explains Cats?

While Men in Black: International really was considered a box office disappointment (and Men in Black 3 was a tepid success), it almost certainly generated some kind of revenue for the popular first installment of the franchise, if only because a 4K Blu-ray reissue of the original Men in Black trilogy was released in December of last year, presumably with the idea that an upcoming sequel would encourage fans who had not watched the old ones in a while to indulge.

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Besides three sequels, Men in Black spawned an animated series (which ran from 1997 until 2001) as well as a video game franchise for PC, GameBoy, GameCube, PlayStation, and XBox consoles.

With a little luck, maybe some day the studio will recoup all those hidden expenses.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.