Photo: Juanmonino (Getty Images)
Fox Searchlight is making a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie based on the story of Richard Montañez, the creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, an invention that changed Frito-Lay and the food industry forever. The film, titled Flamin’ Hot, received bids from a number of studios.
Biopics are meant to inspire and Flamin’ Hot promises to do just that. The story captures Montañez’s emotionally moving journey from janitor to corporate executive. In the past, similar films have been packaged as Oscar bait, released around December, and seen varying degrees of success.
The Legacy Of Inventor Films
In 2016, Michael Keaton starred in The Founder, based off Ray Kroc’s expansion of McDonald’s. While it received excellent reviews, it didn’t manage to bring back it’s $25 million budget.
A year prior, Steve Jobs was considered one of the biggest flops of the year despite a script by Aaron Sorkin and Michael Fassbender in the starring role. The previous Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher was also dismissed as a flop, though it did manage to rebound with overseas revenue.
Joy, another piece of celluloid Oscar bait, starring Jennifer Lawrence, received mixed reviews, zero Oscars, and was not considered a financial success.
One of the problems seems to be that these stories don’t always market to a wide-enough audience to be financially profitable. Flamin’ Hot will be co-produced by DeVon Franklin, whose past two faith-based films Miracles From Heaven and Heaven Is For Real have been box office hits with low budgets. Franklin might plan to steer Montañez’s story into a faith-based film and attract more viewers that way. Looking at past inventor biopics, a different approach might not be such a bad idea.
Big Budgets, Big Losses
With Flamin’ Hot, Hollywood has an inspiring story on their hands. Given that Fox Searchlight, rather than 20th Century Fox, is producing it, one would assume the budget won’t be astronomical.
Compare that to Joy, which cost $60 million to make, a price tag higher than action films like Deadpool, Baby Driver, and Atomic Blonde. Back in 2008, Spyglass produced Flash of Gordon, a story about the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper, at a cost of more than $20 million. The movie wound up grossing less than $5 million.
If Hollywood wants to continue producing emotional and uplifting inventor tales, it might want to consider its long-term goals: are they awards, profits, or both?