Lake Placid
Credit: Everett Collection

If you’re a crocodile hoping to make some money at the box office, you better grab a safari hat and add a “Dundee” to the end of your name because chances are, audiences won’t want to see you otherwise.

As you may have heard, Creature, a schlocky B-movie about a half-gator, half-human monster, utterly bombed at the box office this weekend, swamping up a disastrous $327,000 from 1,507 theaters. That opening, which ranks as the worst-ever debut for a film playing in more than 1,500 theaters, means that each screening of Creature had an average of fewer than six viewers. No matter you look at it, that number bites.

The floptastic performance got me thinking: Has there ever really been a successful crocodile movie? (This is the kind of question you ask yourself when all you think about is the box office.) I mean, was there one super-lucrative property that earned so much money back in the day that it continues to inspire studios to produce movies about crocs and gators?

The answer: Nope!

Though sharks have remained fairly consistent box office draws ever since Jaws‘ 1975 run, crocodiles have never swum mainstream — at least not in the horror genre. Little-known horror flicks like Alligator (1980), Killer Crocodile (1989), Crocodile (2000), Blood Surf (2001), and Black Water (Australia, 2007) failed to make any impact at the box office — there’s not even any box office info available for them!

The comedic Crocodile Dundee (1986), however, proved hugely successful with a $174.8 million, spawning two sequels: Crocodile Dundee II (1988, $109.3 million) and the less successful Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001, $25.6 million). Still, these weren’t really crocodile movies — they were straight-up comedies that happened to have crocodiles as plot devices. Crocs as prominently featured creatures never clicked.

The first major Hollywood-produced croc movie, Lake Placid (1999), earned $31.8 million in theaters against a $35 million budget, and it stands as the financial high-point in the croc genre. Grosses only went down from there. In 2002, Steve Irwin’s mockumentary The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course wrestled up a modest $28.4 million, never rising above sixth place at the box office. Primeval, a 2007 thriller starring Dominic Purcell, could only attract $10.6 million worth of ticket buyers, while Rogue, a 2008 Australian release starring future movie stars Sam Worthington and Mia Wasikowska, took in a sad $10,452 in the single week in played in 10 American theaters. (The $25 million picture bombed around the world as well, earning just $4.6 million total.) Then Creature came along and out-bombed everything.

And so, the croc genre, it seems, is dead in the water. Do you think crocodiles will ever become as appealing as sharks, or are they destined to lurk in the box office depths forever?

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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