Sunday March 08, 2015
Better to Kill than Die at the Box Office: ‘American Sniper’ Becomes #1 Hit of 2014; Blomkamp, Vaughn Wounded
The story is less the first-place finisher than the 11th. But it’s also the first.
The 11th-place finisher was the 11th weekend of “American Sniper,” which grossed another $4.5 million and strolled past “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 1” to become the #1 box-office hit of 2014. It’s the first time a Clint Eastwood movie has finished first in the box office, and he did it in his 84th year. That’s beyond impressive. It also means that Breitbart’s “Big Hollywood” got another thing wrong with its 2014 box-office predictions.
The first-place finisher was “Chappie,” a sci-fi drama written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, whose “District 9” opened to critical acclaim and $37 million in August 2009, and whose “Elysium” opened to more criticism and less acclaim, as well as $29 million, in August 2013. This one won the weekend with a mere $13.3 million. It was also skewered by critics. So ... wrong direction for Blomkamp. But I was never a huge fan.
A bigger story might be the 10th-place finisher, the first weekend of “Unfinished Business,” the new Vince Vaughn comedy, which earned just $4.8 million in more than 2,700 theaters. Vaughn has been a fairly sure box-office winner since “Wedding Crashers” in 2005, but he’s on a downward trajectory, too. Since 2006, his movies have opened at: $39, $18, $31, $34, $17, $12, $17, and $7.9 before this one. A wide-release Vince Vaughn movie hasn’t opened this low since ... never.
Is that the current state of Hollywood? Sci-fi flicks and sure-fire comedies die at the box office, while national tragedies remade into personal, bittersweet dramas kill at the box office? And is this a bad thing? For all its faults, at least “American Sniper” was about recent tragic events. It also reminded us that in war, as well as the box office, it’s better to kill than die. I’m sure Blomkamp and Vaughn, deeply wounded at this point, agree.
Is “American Sniper” also a good counterpoint to ageism? When, after all, was the last time the #1 box-office hit of the year was directed by someone in their 80s? I’m guessing ... never.
The weekend numbers from Box Office Mojo.