The Expendables franchise might be able to deliver some hard-hitting action stars, but unfortunately it turns out their latest destructive romp around a fictional 'stan'-suffixed country wasn't quite so explosive at the box office.
[The Expendables 3](movie:388705), which claims to feature the most impressive cast yet, only opened to a relatively pathetic $16,200,000 domestically, placing it fourth in the current box office charts. The Expendables 3 was beaten out by returning films, [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles](movie:323027) and [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073), while newcomers [Let's Be Cops](movie:885786) took the third spot. In fact, the performance of The Expendables 3 was actually $10 million less than the already rather conservative estimates industry experts were making prior to its opening.
Of course, few people were really expecting the third outing of Stallone and Co to actually be that successful at the box office. The film has had a rather turbulent post-production, especially in the last few weeks.
Although the Expendables make short work of Somalian pirates in the film, it seems they could have been brought down by internet piracy. Three weeks ago, a full DVD quality version of the film was leaked online and has since then been downloaded over 2.2 million times. The leaking was major news both in and outside the US, and it's likely online piracy could have had an impact on its box office takings. Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com stated:
This is really a clear situation where this had an impact. It’s hard to measure, but the ripple effect, not only of the downloads, but of the word-of-mouth that spread as a result, can be seen in the soft opening.
Indeed, the leaked version could have been damaging not simply because it limited ticket sales, but because those who had seen it also reported that it just wasn't very good, further putting off potential cinema-goers. However, there are other factors at play in these low figures.
Firstly, The Expendables 3 took the gamble of watering down their third outing to access, what is commonly seen, as the more lucrative PG-13 market. Instead, The Expendables 3 may have just alienated their core demographic. Furthermore, this is the third Expendables movie in relatively quick succession, so perhaps some franchise fatigue is also to blame.
In an interview with Variety, a 'rival distribution executive' - who apparently confuses metaphors - was quoted as saying:
It got hurt. You’d have to say there was an impact there. But as low as the numbers are, there was a whole lot more going on. There was some audience rejection. When you go to the well too many times, you’re going to run out of gas.
Unsurprisingly, The Expendables 3 has had the worst opening of the franchise. The original Expendables took $34.8 million in its opening weekend, while the sequel at least managed $28.6 million.
There was talk that the entire franchise would be retired after The Expendables 3 anyway, although in a world where money talks louder than creativity, I can imagine an impressive box office result would have got execs talking about an Expendables 4. As it stands, I doubt that's the case. I'll leave that to you to decide it this is a good or a bad thing.
Should The Expendables retire?