The recent box office failures of movie star action heroes Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger may be creating some doubt in Hollywood circles about the future of these 1980's cinema icons. Schwarzenegger's "Last Stand", his first leading role in ten years due to his time spent in the Governors office in California, debuted with a resounding thud on it's opening weekend. Landing in an embarrassing ninth place, it made only a little over six million dollars. This weekend, after four weeks in the theaters, it has dropped to an astounding 29th place and has made just under twelve million domestically.
Sylvester Stallone has experienced similar results with his '80's throwback action flick, "Bullet to the Head". Placing sixth in it's opening weekend (behind such long released movies as "Silver Linings Playbook", already in it's 12th week in theaters), Stallone's movie only brought in $4.5 million in it's debut. After just one week, "Bullet to the Head" has dropped by over 56% in attendance.
Can the failure of these former action heroes be attributed to their senior status or is it a case of just outdated movie formulas that were popular more than three decades ago? Stallone's idea of bringing back the old action stars together for his "Expendables" franchise was very successful. "The Expendables" (2010) brought in nearly $35 million in it's opening weekend and $103 million in it's box office run. The sequel last year fared equally as well.
Schwarzenegger, the former bodybuilder and the recipient of the "Most Perfectly Developed Physique" award from the Guinness Book of World Records, may have trouble convincing movie fans to buy tickets to see a 65 year old beat up bad guys young enough to be his kids. Gone are the massive biceps, the rippling pecs and the superhero jawline. "The Last Stand" still featured the thick Austrian accent and the corny one-liners but that obviously is not enough to bring in big audiences.
Stallone, at 66 years old, is still remarkably fit with the body of someone half his age. The rock hard abs and bulging biceps are still in evidence as Sly kicks some serious butt in his latest action flick. He also moves very well and is totally believable in his fight scenes in "Bullet to the Head". Despite his action hero body, however, most movie goers decided to skip his flick and wait for the DVD release.
Schwarzenegger and Stallone still have charisma and star power. Even after his long absence from the screen, Hollywood has Arnold booked with movie roles for the next three years. Stallone still has the presence to dominate the screen in his new movie "Bullet to the Head".
Perhaps a different approach is needed for these action stars from another era. In the upcoming "The Tomb" (due out in September, 2013), Schwarzenegger and Stallone star in an action thriller in which either star is not required to take off their shirts. Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a structural engineer who is wrongly convicted of a crime and is imprisoned is a maximum security prison of his own design. While in prison, he meets fellow prisoner Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) who helps construct a plan to escape from the prison. Early reports are that both action stars reveal more depth and character than their previous roles have required.
In addition, Schwarzenegger is also starring in "Ten", directed by David Ayers ("End of Watch" and "Training Day"). In this film, the director promises to "re-invent Arnold" by featuring him in the role of a hardened DEA commander who leads his team to rip off a Mexican drug cartel and keep the money for themselves.
Neither Stallone or Schwarzenegger are ready for retirement just yet. Hopefully, they will take some chances with their popular persona's and expand their action star status to show more layers and deeper characters in the future. Arnold always said, "I'll be back". However, as their recent film flops have demonstrated, their fans need something different from them if they want to recapture the box office magic they once had back in the day.