Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, will be this weekend's no. 2 movie, trailing only DreamWorks Animation's The Croods and far surpassing early expectations. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, best known for the Ethan Hawke / Denzel Washington good cop vs. bad cop drama Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen should collect $28 million by Sunday evening -- the film opened with an estimated $10.4 million at 3,098 venues on Friday according to Box Office Mojo -- thus providing 2013 with the year's second biggest R-rated opening and distributor FilmDistrict with its biggest opening weekend to date. Early estimates had the Gerard Butler White House movie opening around $20m. (Photo: Olympus Has Fallen Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart.) [Sunday addendum: According to studio estimates, Olympus Has Fallen opened with $30.5m]
Olympus Has Fallen far surpasses 2013's other action thrillers
Among 2013's R-rated films, Olympus Has Fallen is expected to debut behind only Seth Gordon's comedy Identity Thief, starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, which brought in $34.55 million on its first weekend out in the U.S. and Canada in early February. Olympus Has Fallen, however, will easily beat all other R-rated thrillers / actioners released in North America this year, such as John Moore / Bruce Willis' A Good Day to Die Hard ($24.83m) and the Jeremy Renner / Gemma Arterton action-fantasy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters ($19.69m).
In fact, in its first three days Olympus Has Fallen should rake in more than twice the total domestic gross of Kim Jee-woon / Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand ($12.05 million), and more than the combined totals of two other 2013 action thrillers: Taylor Hackford / Jason Statham's Parker ($17.56m) and Walter Hill / Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head ($9.48m).
Olympus Has Fallen will also far surpass FilmDistrict's previous top opening-weekend grosser, the eventual box office bomb Red Dawn. Directed by Dan Bradley, and featuring Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, the $65m-budgeted Red Dawn debuted with $14.27 million in November 2012, cuming at $44.8 million in North America (no overseas figures available).
With Russia and China now major markets for American movies, and perhaps somewhat tired of portraying Arabs and/or Muslims as major threats to the United States, Hollywood has now found a convenient "alien" enemy to the cause of Freedom and Democracy: North Koreans. They (quite literally) replaced Chinese invaders in the widely lambasted Red Dawn, and are the ones out to blow up the White House in the flag-waving Olympus Has Fallen.
Olympus Has Fallen a box office hit?
So, if the anti-North Korean Olympus Has Fallen earns $28 million in the U.S. and Canada, will that make it a box office hit? Well, not necessarily. Once prints and advertising are factored in, Olympus Has Fallen's costs will likely escalate to something close to $110m. (The Millennium Films-produced thriller cost a reported $70m.) Barring excellent word of mouth -- the Antoine Fuqua / Gerard Butler flick currently has an A- CinemaScore rating -- the film should be taking a tumble next weekend, when the Channing Tatum / Dwayne Johnson star vehicle G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which targets a similar demographic group, and the Saoirse Ronan sci-fier The Host open.
The $92m-budgeted A Good Day to Die Hard, for instance, opened with $24.83 million domestically, cuming at a mediocre $65.93m. The film's salvation was the international box office, where branded (and braindead) actioners tend to perform quite well: $200.25m.
Now, Gerard Butler is the brand-less Olympus Has Fallen's sole name with even a modicum of international box office appeal. Yet, Butler's last movie to earn more than $100m internationally was the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth, co-starring Katherine Heigl, back in 2009.
Considering its action theme, Olympus Has Fallen could theoretically reach that milestone, though apart from stuff featuring superheroes / aliens (of the outer-space variety), flag-waving American movies -- e.g., G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; Act of Valor; or even Ben Affleck's Argo -- tend to perform more modestly (or downright bomb) outside North America. Antoine Fuqua's own Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg and featuring a plot to kill the president of the United States, pulled in a disappointing $48.69 million internationally in 2007.
Olympus Has Fallen cast
Written by newcomers Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger, besides Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart Olympus Has Fallen features Angela Bassett, Phil Austin, Finley Jacobsen, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Rick Yune, James Ingersoll, and Ashley Judd.
Roland Emmerich's White House Down, featuring the White House at the mercy of American right-wing terrorists, Channing Tatum, Joey King, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Rachel Lefevre, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, and veteran Michael Murphy, opens on June 28. Screenplay by James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man, Zodiac).
Olympus Has Fallen Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart photo: FilmDistrict.