The Sylvester Stallone action movie Bullet to the Head is about to become the worst-performing Stallone star vehicle opening in wide release in North America since — at least — the box-office bomb Victory back in 1981, or possibly going all the way back to Paradise Alley in 1978. Opening-weekend figures for Victory, which cumed at $10.85 million (approximately $30.5 million today), are unavailable at Box Office Mojo, but Bullet in the Head is expected to gross an abysmal $5 million by Sunday evening, after collecting $1.73 million at 2,404 locations. (Photo: Sylvester Stallone Bullet to the Head.)
Once inflation is factored in, in the last three decades no other Sylvester Stallone movie in wide release has opened as disastrously as Bullet to the Head; not even the John Landis’ crime comedy Oscar (1991), the Stallone-written action drama Over the Top (1987), the Stallone-Dolly Parton comedy Rhinestone (1984), or the actioner Nighthawks (1981).
According to figures found at Box Office Mojo, Oscar opened with $5.09 million at 1,388 theaters; adjusted for inflation, that represents approximately $9.5 million in 2013 dollars. Over the Top debuted with $5.14 million (about $10m today) at 1,758 locations, while Rhinestone opened with $5.45 million (about $12.5 million today) at 1,630 theaters. Co-starring Blade Runner‘s Rutger Hauer, Nighthawks debuted with $2.85 million (about $7 million today) at 659 venues.
Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham: Ensemble hits, solo flops
About two and a half years ago, Sylvester Stallone had his first major domestic hit in years, with the bombastic, all-star action ensemble The Expendables, which collected $103 million at North American theaters. The sequel The Expendables 2, co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and featuring much of the same cast of the first film, performed more modestly in the US/Canada (cume: $85.02 million), but fared remarkably well abroad ($215.4m).
In today’s teen-oriented market, that’s not bad at all for movies featuring a bunch of senior citizens handling big, thick, deadly weapons. But neither Sylvester Stallone nor Arnold Schwarzenegger — or Jason Statham, for that matter — have succeeded in extending their success in ensemble pieces to their own personal star vehicles. Earlier this year, The Last Stand suffered the worst opening of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie since he became a star in the early ’80s: $6.3m. Jason Statham’s Parker opened a week ago with a nearly as disastrous $7m.
If Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head does indeed earn around $5 million in its first three days, it’ll be an even worse debut than those of Schwarzenegger’s and Statham’s movies. It’ll also mean that the upcoming Stallone / Schwarzenegger action movie The Tomb may have to face an uphill battle in finding an audience.
Sylvester Stallone toplines Bullet to the Head cast
Sylvester Stallone plays a tough hitman in the New Orleans-set Bullet to the Head, which also features Jason Momoa, Jon Seda, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Christian Slater, who himself hasn’t been very lucky at the box office in recent years — Slater’s Playback was the lowest-grossing release in North America in 2012. [Note: This article originally described Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head role as that of a cop. Sung Kang plays a Washington, D.C., cop in the film.]
Veteran Walter Hill, among whose directorial credits are the Eddie Murphy / Nick Nolte blockbuster 48 Hrs. (1982) and its sequel, handled the proceedings and is credited for co-writing the Bullet to the Head screenplay with Alessandro Camon. The source for the film’s plot is Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel Du Plomb dans la Tête. Warner Bros. is handling the film’s domestic release. The Bullet to the Head rumored budget — no official figures are available — is $55m.
Sylvester Stallone Bullet to the Head photo: Warner Bros.