Directed by Roland Emmerich, renowned (or reviled, depending on your movie tastes) for his mass-marketed, braindead blockbusters Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, the 2013 $150 million-budgeted actioner White House Down lived up to its title. Down in fourth place this weekend, White House Down, which stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, suffered the worst inflation-adjusted opening weekend of a big-budget Roland Emmerich movie since the Jean-Claude Van Damme / Dolph Lundgren star vehicle Universal Soldier back in 1992 — more than two decades ago.
At 1,916 theaters, Universal Soldier scored $10.05 million on its first weekend out, the equivalent of about $19 million today, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. Sony Pictures' White House Down, for its part, took in an estimated $25.7 million from 3,222 sites — including $1.35 million from Thursday evening shows — this weekend, June 28-30, 2013, scoring $7,976 per venue, a mediocre figure for such a big-budget, high-profile movie. [Update: White House Down grossed $24.85 million, nearly one million less than originally estimated and below the $25 million mark.]
Note: Starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger, The Patriot scored $22.41 million in late June 2000, which translates into approximately $33 million today. Starring Kurt Russell, Stargate earned $16.65 million in late October 1994, or about $31.5 million today. Excluding the low-budget Anonymous and taking inflation into account, White House Down and Universal Soldier are the only two Roland Emmerich movies in the last two decades — or rather, 21 years — to have debuted with less than $30 million at the North American box office.
For comparison's sake: Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum, Independence Day grossed $50.22 million at 2,882 venues on its first weekend out in early July 1996. That translates into around $90 million in 2013. The sci-fi actioner's five-and-a-half-day cume (it opened in mid-week) was $96.1 million, or approximately $173 million adjusted. Even without taking inflation into account, White House Down has just about zero chances of reaching that figure during its entire domestic run.
Here's another comparison: Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are the two "buddies" in White House Down. But the buddy movie North American audiences paid to watch this weekend was Paul Feig's The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The Heat raked in an estimated $40 million.
Olympus Has Fallen vs. White House Down
Should one blame White House Down's domestic box office under-performance on Antoine Fuqua's similarly themed Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, and which came out in February 2013? Well, to some extent, audiences may have felt a sense of déjà vu: one White House Under Attack movie is perhaps enough for one calendar year. Olympus Has Fallen, whose $70 million budget was less than half that of White House Down, opened with $30.37 million in the U.S. and Canada last February.
But let's not forget that the release of two similarly themed films within the space of months doesn't necessarily spell disaster for the second title. Last year, Tarsem Singh's Snow White movie Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, and Armie Hammer, opened a few months before Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman. However, the latter title, which starred Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Sam Claflin, far outperformed Mirror Mirror not only in the U.S. and Canada, but also around the world. Perhaps much of it depends on the marketing: making sure the second movie looks nothing at all like the first one.
Also not helping were lackluster reviews. White House Down has a mediocre 53 percent approval rating and 5.6/10 average at Rotten Tomatoes.
Sony Pictures, for its part, must be fervently hoping that White House Down will far outperform Olympus Has Fallen at the international box office. The Gerard Butler actioner grossed a quite disappointing $62.1 million outside North America, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. White House Down opens in its first major international markets in mid-July.
Channing Tatum stars in White House Down
Macho White House Down star Channing Tatum has had better luck with his female-oriented romantic melodramas at the domestic box office. For instance, The Vow, co-starring Rachel McAdams, debuted with $41.2 million, while Dear John, co-starring Amanda Seyfried, opened with $30.46 million. Not to mention Magic Mike, co-starring Matt Bomer and other semi-naked strippers, which debuted with $39.12 million.
Besides Channing Tatum, the White House Down cast includes Django Unchained's Jamie Foxx, Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Best Actor Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Zero Dark Thirty's Jason Clarke, Twilight and New Moon's Rachelle Lefevre, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Jake Weber, Jimmi Simpson, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, James Woods, and veteran Michael Murphy (Diane Keaton's boyfriend in Woody Allen's Manhattan, Jill Clayburgh's cheating husband in Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman).
Channing Tatum in White House Down movie photo: Sony Pictures.