- American Gangster box office: Ridley Scott’s real-life-inspired crime drama is 2007’s only Top 30 domestic blockbuster with a more-than-minimal chance of receiving a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. In the cast: Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington.
American Gangster box office: An awards season contender, Ridley Scott’s crime drama is fall’s third biggest hit
According to studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com, Universal Pictures’ Ridley Scott-directed American Gangster has grossed (updated final cume:) $130.2 million at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office since its Nov. 2 debut.
That’s a solid figure, though far from enough for the $100 million real-life-based crime drama to recover its budget – let alone its additional marketing and distribution expenses – domestically.
On the bright side, American Gangster has turned out to be the third* most successful fall release in the domestic market, trailing only the Francis Lawrence-Will Smith thriller I Am Legend ($256.4 million) and Tim Hill’s live-action/computer-animated mix Alvin and the Chipmunks ($217.3 million).
Scott’s generally well-regarded crime drama is also one of the precious few major 2007 hits to have a chance at a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.
* American Gangster actually ended up as the fourth biggest fall 2007 release in the U.S. and Canada. Starring Ellen Page, Jason Reitman’s Oscar-nominated comedy Juno would ultimately reach a cume of $143.5 million.
Newark cop vs. Harlem heroin smuggler
Set in the 1970s, American Gangster reunited Ridley Scott with his Oscar-winning Gladiator star Russell Crowe (also seen in Scott’s A Good Year), now cast as a Newark police detective on the trail of a hugely successful Harlem-based heroin smuggler, among whose “collaborators” are homebound Vietnam War veterans (living or dead, it seems).
As the titular entrepreneur, Denzel Washington was cast in a role not that different from the one that earned him the 2001 Best Actor Oscar (for Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day). Well, excepting the fact that the trafficker in American Gangster isn’t a cop; instead, he is Frank Lucas, who is supposed to have been one of New York City’s most powerful drug lords.
Besides Crowe and Washington – who had been previously featured together in Brett Leonard’s 1995 action sci-fier Virtuosity – the American Gangster cast also includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire, 1996), Josh Brolin, Armand Assante, and veteran Ruby Dee (A Raisin in the Sun, The Incident).
Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) was credited for the adaptation of Mark Jacobson’s 2000 New York magazine article “The Return of Superfly.”
‘Successful’ money-loser mostly bypassed at the Oscars
Update: Ridley Scott’s American Gangster ultimately collected an additional $139.6 million internationally. Worldwide total: $269.8 million – a hefty sum, but not enough to cover the pricy crime drama’s overall costs.
Its top international markets were the United Kingdom/Ireland ($19.9 million), Italy ($15.5 million), Spain ($14.5 million), Germany ($11 million), France ($10.8 million), Australia ($10.7 million), and Japan ($10.3 million).
By the way, American Gangster ended up not being shortlisted for the Best Picture Oscar. In fact, it received a mere two nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Ruby Dee and Best Art Direction for Arthur Max and (set decorator) Beth A. Rubino.
“American Gangster Box Office” endnotes
Unless otherwise noted, “American Gangster Box Office: Russell Crowe & Denzel Washington Pairing Is Notable Hit” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about American Gangster and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Russell Crowe American Gangster movie image: Universal Pictures.
“American Gangster Box Office: Russell Crowe & Denzel Washington Pairing Is Notable Hit” last updated in October 2022.