Hollywood Goes To War (Again)

Posted without comment from Nikki Finke):

I’m told #7 Stop-Loss opened to only $1.6 million Friday from just 1,291 plays and should eke out $4+M. Although the drama from MTV Films was the best-reviewed movie opening this weekend, Paramount wasn’t expecting much because no Iraq war-themed movie has yet to perform at the box office. “It’s not looking good,” a studio source told me before the weekend. “No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It’s a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that’s unresolved yet. It’s a shame because it’s a good movie that’s just ahead of its time.”

OK, I lied, I’m going to comment – from Box Office Mojo, opening US weekends:

Lions for Lambs $6,702,434 (2,215 theaters, $3,025 average)

In The Valley of Elah $1,512,310 (wide, 762 theaters, $1,984 average)

Redacted $25,628 (15 theaters, $1,708 average)

Grace is Gone $13,880 (4 theaters, $3,470 average)

Rendition $4,060,012 (2,250 theaters, $1,804 average)

So obviously no one wants to see movies on the War on Terror.

Well, maybe not:

The Kingdom $17,135,055 (2,793 theaters, $6,135 average)

Maybe, just maybe, the audiences don’t see ‘addressing the conflict in a realistic way‘ the same way that the studios do. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to be the bad guys. Just a thought.

17 thoughts on “Hollywood Goes To War (Again)”

  1. I saw the preview for the latest one of these at my friendly local movie house, and the audiences were laughing at it. (I can’t remember which one it was. Anti war on terror movies are a generic commodity now.)

    That surprised me, but this is Sydney, Australia, and maybe the audience for Rambo (2008) or even There Will Be Blood (2007) isn’t the same as the prime audience for earnestly phony bleeding heart hate America propaganda.

    Overseas these movies do much better, both commercially and I suspect in terms of influence. They carry extra credibility because the Americans are admitting this about themselves.

    Fortunately, greater success in foreign markets isn’t enough to make these movies successful, just less unsuccessful than they would otherwise have been.

  2. The Kingdom isn’t bad. It’s the only one on that list I’ve bothered to see. I will not waste my time on Stop Loss or any of the others. I just refuse to watch movies about Iraq made by people who haven’t the slightest idea what really goes on in that country. I will not pay money to be preached at by fools.

  3. Vantage Point did fairly well. Despite not being by all accounts a good movie.

    Hollywood will not stop making these. To quote John Stewart “We can’t let the audience win!”

    Conceptually this goes beyond politics. Hollywood and the Metrosexual elite have been feminized to the point that traditional heroics and masculine behavior are taboo. WSJ has Stop-Loss star Ryan Phillipe gushing over his love of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen and sort of implying he’s the same. Traditional film-making offered a hero, who had to do something that wasn’t easy, and villains.

    If there are no villains and no heroes, the audience doesn’t show up for victim-a-thons. The writer/producer/director of Stop Loss was that also of Boys Don’t Cry.

  4. Vantage Point showing the jihadis as bad guys, the President as a good guy, Secret Service and average Americans also.

    One criticism of Stop Loss I’ve seen, the men are all Hollywood pretty boys. Not anyone approaching the kind of men I’ve seen in pictures and movies direct from Iraq and Afghanistan on mil-blogs or programs such as the National Geographic one about the Green Beret team in Afghanistan.

    It’s pretty jarring, even left-wing critics pick up on it.

  5. “No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It’s a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that’s unresolved yet. It’s a shame because it’s a good movie that’s just ahead of its time.”

    This tells you everything you need to know as to why these films don’t do well. It reminds me of Pauline Kael

    “No one I know voted for Nixon.

    Likewise, no one in Hollywood ever hears a differing viewpoint about the war, thus their view of what is reality is always skewed.

  6. Let me skewer your point, AL, by emphasizing how little people want to “address the conflict” in any serious way.

    1)Let’s look at a list of totally terrible, unjustifiable awful movies that made way more than “The Kingdom”.

    Epic Movie: so far grossed 39 mill
    Behind Enemy Lines: 58 mill
    Catowoman (Domestic): 40 mill
    Norbit (Domestic): 96 mill
    Rambo: 47 million

    These are just the first ones that popped into my head. But there are many others. Just think of the worst movie ad you’ve seen in years, and google “(movie) box office gross”. Todah! It probably made more money than any of the films I watch on a regular basis. And do you know why? Because people like to go to predictable, cliche-driven movies to escape, not to see moving, thought-provoking films.

    BTW: I’m not accussing ANY of your movies of being good. From “Lions for Lambs” to “In the Vally of Elah” the reviews, are tremendously, spectacularly bad. The Kindom is slightly better, but still doesn’t get a positive tomatometer.

    2) You’re also comparing apples to oranges: many movies with almost no advertising budget, to movies that do. Let’s look at some “anti-war” (or anti-mid east) movies that did just as good (with an advertising budget):

    Syriana: 50 million (4,000 per theater)
    Munich: 47 million (5,000 per theater on opening weekend)
    Farenheit 9/11 (which I haven’t seen): 119 million (opening weekend made avg. of 27,000 per theater).

    Until you can find a serious of films that do better than the national crap average, I’m not going to buy this argument.

  7. alchemist, I’d take issue with your choices of films.

    Syriana is more about “evil cia” and “evil administration” ignoring the pleas of the richard clarke-esque character. Not really “anti-war”. And lets be correct, the movies AL listed are anti-war, especially anti-Iraq war films.

    Munich is a retelling of actual events (granted with some liberties taken) other than the cheesy shot at the end of the Twin Towers it makes almost zero comparison to the current conflict, and is most certainly not an “anti-war” film considering no war was being portrayed.

    And finally, Moore’s ignorant, falsehood which played on an ignorant public that is generally duped by a turd in a shiny wrapper. For all the fanfare the “documentary” got, it played precisely to an audience that wanted to be fed the line of crap Moore was spooning out. Yes it was an anti-Iraq war, but it was more of an anti-Bush movie.

    As for the failure to advertise, Redacted got massive media attention, and guess what, no one saw it. It didn’t even break $1mm domestic/overseas. You know why, it was a shitty movie that no one liked. These films are not doing poorly because people don’t want to see movies about the war. These films are doing poorly because they suck. Plenty of people will shell out cash for something that is entertaining, F911 was a horribly inaccurate falsehood, but it was entertaining. The other films listed were horribly inaccurate falsehoods that were not.

    Hollywood has a profit motive, but it relys on the tried and true formulas (Will Smith + aliens) to make money. The “issue films” almost always are flops that don’t make any money, but because Hollywood has a self deluded vision of its ability to sway public opinion, these issue films get made, they lose money, and no one loses their jobs over it becuse for the most part, Hollywood is a liberal haven that wants to push its view of the world on the public.

    If they were more concerned with profit motive, they would stop making this shitty films, and make a film that portrayed America as the good guys for once. I can guarantee that film would be a blockbuster, because outside of SOHO and West LA, no one wants to see a film bashing Americas armed forces.

  8. You know, alchemist, I just don’t feel skewered; maybe it’s a sensitivity thing…<g>…seriously, let’s start with our metrics – the issue was domestic opening weekend grosses (and in the case of In The Valley, I gave them credit for their wide release). For Syriana – with arguably the biggest star around today, that number was $11,737,143
    (wide, 1,752 theaters, $6,699 average).


  9. alchemist –

    I’m not sure what argument of A.L.’s that you’re skewering, or how.

    It is the thesis of some anonymous studio source that Iraq war films have done poorly – not an original thesis by any means – and it’s danged hard to argue with the numbers.

    You seem to be saying that Huge Box Office Gross = Crap, therefore the box office dogs must be good or serious movies. Some directors have been consoling themselves with this elitist conceit for years, but it isn’t true.

    Not every blockbuster is a crapfest, by any means. And audiences haven’t spurned superb films like No Country for Old Men. Video and DVD have given new longevity to films, so good films that fell short at the box office have still received the recognition they deserved.

    The problem is that some people think a film isn’t serious unless it sends some kind of political message – to which Samuel Goldwyn once retorted, “You wanna send a message? Call Western Union!”

    The typical Hollywood political message is crude leftist stereotype – predictable and cliche-driven, to use your words – and audiences loath propaganda. They know it when they see it.

  10. I rented The Kingdom from NetFlix. I thought it was really good until the very end, where they threw in a little moral equivalence between killing all the terrorists who murdered civilian families, and killing all non-muslims in Arab lands. I’m sure they thought it was clever and thought-provoking.

  11. 1) Yeah, I forgot that you used opening weekend numbers (btw, for those who missed the last conversation, the kingdom’s total gross was 47 million).

    “Redacted got massive media attention…”

    From who? I’m a movie trailer junkie. I watch a few different trailer websites 3-4 times a week, and I never saw anything for redacted (which one was that again?) I certainly didn’t see any tv commercials. Ditto for “In the Valley of Elah”. Meanwhile, I’ve probably seen 100 trailers for the Kingdom. I just recently saw a trailer for stop-loss online, but never on tv. I don’t really have any desire to see that one either.

    “You seem to be saying that Huge Box Office Gross = Crap, therefore the box office dogs must be good or serious movies.”

    I made the first correlation as generally true, but it doesn’t work in reverse. (I said that each of these movies were very, very bad, which is part of the reason why they didn’t make money). At the same time there are thousands of great movies that nobody ever hears about (for example, my entire netflix list). I saw Syriana, liked parts of it, but I knew no one was going to see it. Just like nobody saw Michael Clayton.

    Now, you take another bad (but not serious) popcorn movie, like “Jumper” which has basically been called crap by everyone, still managed to make 27 million on the opening weekend.

    AL: As I read your argument, you’re saying “nobody is willing to see these pollitical charged films with leftist rhetoric.” I’m saying, almost all political films do poorly compared to their poptart counterparts.

    Note that I haven’t even brought the new star wars films up yet….

  12. alchemist –

    I never saw anything for redacted (which one was that again?) I certainly didn’t see any tv commercials. Ditto for “In the Valley of Elah”.

    I’m an indifferent television watcher and I saw commercials for both films. You can’t claim people didn’t know about these films; the controversy they stirred up was worth many millions in advertising.

    The average advertising budget for a major studio release is about $15 million. Obviously you spend much more if you’re pushing a $200 million Spiderman movie than you do if you’re pushing a “One man’s journey to discover his heart” weeper. And you make much more money, because the kid and family market is huge and most ten year-olds don’t want to see films about how awful America is.

    But it’s interesting that you mention Michael Clayton. Compare the numbers on Michael Clayton “(link)”:http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2007/MCLAY.php with In the Valley of Elah. “(link)”:http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2007/VELAH.php

    Note that their production budgets were almost identical, with Clayton slightly cheaper, and they come from the same major distributor. While Clayton is no blockbuster, its worldwide gross is EIGHT TIMES greater than Elah, even though Elah was released a month earlier.

    [Note from NM: Glen, MT gets confused when typestyles are included in the URL format described in the guidelines. Ungainly fix executed. There mightbe a way to use “a href” sorts of tags along with itals or bolding. I am researching that.]

  13. The problem with Hollywood is the classic Agency problem. The execs make money not off profitable films (talent also, everyone gets screwed) but upfront money and networking for their next film.

    These craptacular “America sucks!” films serve nothing more than to stroke the egos of the Hollywood in crowd which hates Bush AND their audience too with equal measure.

    Even films like “Rise of the Silver Surver” aka Fantastic Four Pt 2 have the gratitutious anti-Bush, anti-American, bash America stuff in it.

    Garbage. Hollywood is in economic freefall. Just like TV, film, and music.

  14. It’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), or 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and the enthusiastic professional torturer and his close relationship with the American general was jarring.

    But not as bad as the authorial intrusion in The Kingdom (2007), where a perfectly good cop show is set aside for a mini lecture on What We Must Learn From This.

    Both movies were still enjoyable, though in my opinion, even as a wildly biased Fantastic Four fan, The Kingdom (2007) was better. (The main difference is: Jennifer Garner was great, while Jessica Alba was a disaster.)

    But it’s gotten to the point where, even in movies I’m determined to enjoy regardless of quality, and with movies that should not be at all political, I’m hunkered down waiting for the political shot that is coming. Because it is coming. I still go, because these are the movies that I want to see. But I just have to grit my teeth and accept that.

    In marginal cases, where I want to see that movie, like Kingdom of Heaven (2005), but I don’t want to see it all that badly and the politically correct bogus history is too much, I give a miss to movies I would otherwise have seen.

    And then there are easy cases like Stop-Loss (2008), where the propaganda is the film, not just an unwelcome addition to it. Why am I going to pay to be lectured by know-nothings? That’s an easy No way!

    If you keep in mind distinctions between films where the lecture is a passing political hit (and the movie itself may be good, as The Kingdom (2007) is), films where the lecturing is part of the framework of the story, so that if the lies are unpalatable enough the whole movie may not work for you, and straight agitprop, it’s easier to understand why many movies with anti-war points to make are successful.

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