Burning Question: Has Arnold Schwarzenegger Lost His Box-Office Mojo?

Leslie Gornstein
Yahoo MoviesMarch 31, 2014

What happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger? His latest movie just bombed. Is he over?

Not even. Sure, his new flick was so dwarfed by the "Noah" marketing blitz that you can be forgiven if you didn't know there was a new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie this weekend. But there was, and "Sabotage," which cost an estimated $35 million to make, earned a mere $5.3 million over the weekend.

"Arnold has been a box-office bust in the U.S. ever since he came back from his political tour of duty, and even before that his star was steadily falling," says Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst Jeff Bock. "'Sabotage' is Arnie's worst debut of his career, when adjusted for inflation. Ouch."

His age isn't helping him either.

"At nearly 70, he's not quite believable as the Action Jackson he once was," Bock says. "Plus, Liam Neeson is getting all the scripts that are actually good, whereas Arnie gets the Z-grade scripts nowadays."

Then again, if you suspect that all translates into retirement for Schwarzenegger, think again. The world doesn't end at the Eastern seaboard — a lucky fact of geography for the Styrian Oak.

[Related: Schwarzenegger: Why 'Sabotage' Is His Most Violent Film Yet]

"The big money for Arnold is made back on DVD sales overseas," says casting director Bonnie Gillespie, author of "Self-Management for Actors." "He's untouchable."

In fact, Arnie is not only surviving via worldwide sales; he's thriving. His Ulmer Scale rating? A whopping 98, which means that film financiers stand a 98 percent chance of recouping their investment in worldwide upfront sales before a single frame of a movie is even shot.

Here's another number for you: $8 million to $10 million. That's how much Arnie charged for the 2013 film "The Last Stand," which bombed domestically but earned more than $48 million worldwide. (Full disclosure: The production budget was a reported $45 mil. But that's still a profit, m'kay?) His other 2013 film, "Escape Plan," limped to just $25 million domestically, but tallied more than $137 million worldwide.

Industry insiders tell me that as long as the former California governor continues to stick with action films, which translate pretty much universally, he can continue to work… even if certain competitors with Irish accents have begun to snatch up the best scripts.

[Related: How Clooney Inspired Schwarzenegger to Get His Own Pig (Named 'Bacon')]

"You may see some of Arnold's future films opening directly overseas without a U.S. opening," Gillespie muses. "That would be the next step down. But I don't see that happening to him."

Unless he maybe tries to do another comedy such as "Twins" or "Junior"?

"I can't imagine he would choose to do that," Gillespie says. "He might try to do a softer action film like 'Red,' but I don't think he would go and try to pull a full Vin Diesel and try to play a sensitive guy."

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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.