The big-budget film White House Down had a poorer than expected opening weekend despite the presence of big stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. The huge PR and commercial advertising effort failed to push the film to the top of the weekend’s U.S. box office tally, or even near it. The film took in an estimated $25.7 million over the weekend, finishing fourth, behind Monsters University, The Heat, and World War Z.
Industry analysts had expected WHD to bring in one-third more than it managed to snag over the weekend, and the film was so expensive to produce that it will probably manage to lose money, which is very difficult for a movie to do these days.
The publicity for White House Down certainly succeeded in conveying what the movie was about: an action film with now-routine spectacular special effects and a heroic black American president of the United States. A similar film, Olympus Has Fallen, hit the theaters three months ago, and actually brought in more money its first week ($30.3 million) than White House Down. The release of another film along the same lines seems to have been too much of a mediocre thing.
In addition, the film’s suggestion of a heroic, high-character black president may seem a bit too fantastic for audiences at this time, and those who do see the current president as potentially heroic probably don’t appreciate the idea of him and his family being rescued by a white policeman, even if the pres does get to kick some tail in the process.
On the other hand, The Heat, an R-rated comedy featuring two female “buddy” cops played by Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock debuted at number 2 with a healthy $40.0 million in U.S. ticket sales. Top-billed Bullock has rejuvenated her career in recent years as a likable comedy presence, and her name on the marquee guarantees a certain amount of audience interest and trust in the product. McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Identity Theft) is rapidly becoming a big cinema star, with audiences knowing what to expect: a really funny, vulgar movie that finds some unexpected good qualities in the wild protagonist. That’s a license to print money in today’s market.