This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When The Expendables came from nowhere to gross $274.5 million worldwide in 2010, Sylvester Stallone and 1980s action stars got a second lease on life. But the lease could be up.
Stallone's Bullet to the Head, which opened to a dismal $4.5 million during Super Bowl weekend, posted the worst showing of his career for a wide release. Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand debuted to a paltry $6.3 million in January, and fellow Expendable Jason Statham's Parker bowed to just $7 million during the Jan. 25-27 weekend. The showings of Bullet and Last Stand will put pressure on The Tomb, a September prison escape pic pairing Schwarzenegger, 65, and Stallone, 66.
Both Last Stand and Bullet received bad reviews and were hurt by competition from Academy Awards contenders including Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, all of which continue to attract moviegoers.
Traditionally, January and February are ideal months to release genre fare, and Hollywood went overboard this year with R-rated action pics. But the failures could change how the winter months are programmed.
"What's keeping the box office [afloat] are the Oscar pictures, which are holding the attention of adults," says Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros., which released Bullet on behalf of Dark Castle Entertainment and IM Global/Reliance. "It's very unusual."