Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
January 15, 2014
Kim Hollis: Lone Survivor expanded to 2,875 locations and earned $37.8 million for the weekend. How was Universal able to drive such a surprising result?
Matthew Huntley: Various box office analysts are crediting Lone Survivor's performance to its patriotic story, which specifically touched down in the mid-west and Texas. I can actually see this being the case, especially following last year's Act of Valor, which also opened unexpectedly high, displayed respectable legs and went on to gross $70 million on a $12 million budget. Both films suggest there's a new trend whereby courageous, against-all-odds war stories are back and audiences want something to cheer for. Compared to Valor, Lone Survivor is the more Hollywood-ized, mainstream version, and with a relatively big name - Mark Wahlberg - at its center, success was inevitable. Surely the film's reviews played a role as well, and given its audience reception thus far, I can see this going on to at least $120 million stateside. Internationally, it will likely be tougher sell, but it's already a certified win for Universal, which will probably use this win to help downplay the loss that was 47 Ronin.
Felix Quinonez Jr.: I think a major selling point was the way Lone Survivor was advertised. The studio wisely downplayed any politics or motivations behind the operation the movie depicts. The trailers instead highlighted the bravery and courage of the soldiers. And the studio was also very wise to court middle America audiences. It also doesn't hurt that at the center is a reliable actor who is a draw in the right project.
Edwin Davies: During those dark days when Twilight was the teen phenomenon du jour, I often found myself saying, "Sure, they're successful, but can you imagine how much money they would make if they were actually good?" I felt much the same about Act of Valor, which was a pretty terrible film that managed to ably tap into the wave of goodwill towards the SEALs that appeared in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. I feel that Lone Survivor is the good version of Act of Valor in that respect since it hits many of the key pressure points - a focus on bravery, heroism and a soupçon of patriotism - but has real actors (including Mark Wahlberg, who is a remarkably dependable action star at this point) and a director who can shoot action well. It's not a great film, but it's an immensely solid one, and I think its perceived quality, coupled with the aforementioned themes, allowed it to break out and perhaps reach audiences who generally aren't catered for during the curious mix of awards season dogfight and studio dumping ground that is January.
Jay Barney: This is an outstanding result for Universal, and it definitely eliminates the bad taste in their mouths from 47 Ronin. Frankly, I am not sure how they pulled this off. Perhaps it had to do with the lack of this type of film for some time in theaters, but the stars aligned and Lone Survivor is going to be a HUGE success. I wonder if the involvement of Mark Wahlberg had something to do with it, as he is on almost as much of a successful run as Universal. That studio's success has been pretty well detailed on BOP for some time, but Wahlberg has been a growing draw. The only certifiable flop on his resume in the last several years has been Broken City. Even films like Pain & Gain ended up being successful, partly because of his presence. Ted, 2 Guns, Contraband...the last couple of years have been pretty good to him.