Those who follow me on Twitter probably heard me express this opinion a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating in the blog proper - just because The Hurt Locker has gotten a lot of press, and picked up the Oscar for Best Picture last night, don't expect that to start a spate of Iraq War movies. In fact, I'd actively discourage you from starting a spec about the Iraq War.
Here are the facts when it comes to The Hurt Locker. The film reportedly cost $15 million dollars to make, but has made barely $13 million domestically, with just under $7 million coming from international sales. A $5 million profit might be nothing to sneeze at, but for the fact that it's probably more than eaten up by marketing and distribution costs. One could blame the limited release for that fact, but studios have expanded limited releases before when the demand has proven to be there. There wasn't that amount of audience support for The Hurt Locker, despite all the press it got as the Oscar-frontrunner against the highest grossing movie of all time!
For a few years now, I've let out a heavy sigh each time I've opened a script to the slugline: "EXT. IRAQ - DAY" or "EXT. FALLUJAH - DAY." I know I'm probably in for spending a few hours reading and writing up something that my bosses would be loathe to make even if it was good... and let's face it, most of the Iraq specs I read aren't that good.
I challenge anyone to name a single Iraq War film that has been a hit. Let's even expand that to Iraq and Afghanistan War-on-Terror related movies.
Still nothing? Let's look at the numbers that the development exec, producer, or studio bean counter will look at when your Iraq spec crosses their desk.
Rendition - Budget: unknown. Domestic gross: $9 million. Foreign gross: $17 million. This was pretty widely considered a flop, so odds are it cost a lot more than it made.
In The Valley of Elah - Budget: $23 million. Domestic: $6.7 million. Foreign: $22.7 million.
Lions For Lambs - Budget: $35 million. Domestic: $15 million. Foreign: $48 million. This was a huge flop for Tom Cruise and his United Artists' pictures. Not only did it open at 4th in the box office, but it was Cruise's lowest-grossing film since 1986!
Home of the Brave - Budget: $12 million. Domestic: $51, 708. Foreign: $447, 992.
Redacted - Budget: $5 million. Domestic: $65,388. Foreign: $714,212
Stop-Loss - Budget: $25 million. Domestic: $10 million. Foreign: $291,386.
Body of Lies - Budget: $70 million. Domestic: $39 million. Foreign: $75 million. This wasn't a total flop, but you can bet that even with Foreign bringing in some cash, the studio was not happy with the box office on this.
The Kingdom - Budget: $70 million. Domestic: $47.5 million. Foreign: $39 million.
The reality is that your audience has spent the last seven-plus years trying to ignore this War on Terror. We're stuck in a quagmire of two wars with no sign of getting out anytime soon. They're not going to pay $14 admission to see something they've only been too happy to ignore for free on CNN.
All of this is exactly why I have precisely ZERO expectation that Green Zone will do well at the box office.
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