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The American Box Office: Latest George Clooney Underperformer

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The American George ClooneyThe American movie with George Clooney: Top domestic box office title despite tepid interest from moviegoers.
  • The American box office: Starring George Clooney as a contract killer, Anton Corbijn’s modestly budgeted, Sweden- and Italy-set action thriller has topped the domestic chart over the semi-comatose Labor Day weekend.
  • At no. 2 on the chart, Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez’s exploitation actioner Machete is about to die the box office death.

The American box office: George Clooney thriller likely to disappear soon after topping lethargic Labor Day weekend

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Sept. 3–5 weekend box office: Greeted by humdrum reviews upon its debut last Wednesday, Focus Features’ adult-oriented action thriller The American, directed by Anton Corbijn and starring Oscar winner George Clooney (Syriana, 2005) in the title role, was the no. 1 movie this past Labor Day weekend, grossing a lukewarm $13.2 million from 2,721 theaters as per final studio figures found at

The American’s total after six days (including Labor Day Monday) stands at a mere $19.8 million.

The silver lining: The Corbijn-Clooney collaboration reportedly cost a modest $20 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).

One more George Clooney underperformer

For comparison’s sake: Two other recent George Clooney movies also opened in the low teens; Grant Heslov’s political satire The Men Who Stare at Goats (budget: $25 million) debuted with $12.6 million in early November 2009, while the Clooney-directed romantic comedy Leatherheads (budget: $58 million) earned $12.7 million on its opening weekend in early April 2008.

Both titles turned out to be sizable box office disappointments: In the U.S. and Canada, the former reached $32.4 million; the latter $31.4 million. The American will likely fare no better.

Besides George Clooney as a contract killer who assumes a new identity in the medieval Italian town of Castel del Monte, The American also features Violante Placido as his local romantic interest and veteran Paolo Bonacelli (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom; Midnight Express) as the local priest. Plus: Irina Björklund, Johan Leysen, Filippo Timi, and Thekla Reuten.

Unimpressive – but possibly profitable – global figure

Update: George Clooney’s The American ultimately collected $35.6 million domestically and $32.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $67.9 million – an unimpressive figure, but possibly enough to have made the action thriller modestly profitable.

Its top international markets were Spain ($4.7 million), France ($4 million), and Germany ($3.7 million). In Italy, where much of the action is set, The American collected a mere $1.5 million.

Machete movie Danny TrejoMachete movie with Danny Trejo.

Machete box office: Exploitation actioner fails to lure moviegoers – but reported low cost might still make it a moneymaker

The no. 2 movie on the Labor Day weekend chart was another – radically different – action thriller, Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez’s cartoonishly violent Machete, which debuted with $11.4 million from 2,670 sites.

In his first lead, Danny Trejo reprises his Spy Kids role as a Mexican federal agent known as Machete. The mostly “name” supporting cast includes Lindsay Lohan as a platinum blonde socialite/nun with a gun, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, and two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II, 1974; Raging Bull, 1980) as a corrupt right-wing politician focused on inciting hatred of undocumented immigrants.

But big, medium-sized, and cult names or no, this 20th Century Fox release is about to die the box office death in the domestic market. Compounding matters, international prospects are all but nil.

The silver lining: Machete reportedly cost a mere $10.5 million. (The actual figure may have been more than twice as high.)

Global bomb

Update: The exploitation flick Machete ultimately collected a paltry $26.6 million domestically and – a better-than-nil – $18.9 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $45.5 million.

That wouldn’t be bad at all for a $10 million production. But it would be pretty bad for one that cost $25 million – without even factoring in the amount spent on marketing and distribution.

Machete’s top international territories were Russia/CIS ($2.7 million), Germany ($2.3 million), and Spain ($2 million). Mexican antihero or no, Mexico brought in a mere $945,000.

Going the Distance stumbles

For the record, rounding out the Top Five movies on the Labor Day weekend box office chart were:

  • At no. 3, John Luessenhop’s heist thriller Takers grossed $10.9 million (down 47 percent on its second weekend). Cume: $37.3 million. Cast: Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, and Paul Walker.
  • At no. 4, Daniel Stamm’s horror thriller The Last Exorcism grossed $7.3 million (down a whopping 64 percent on its second weekend). Cume: $32.1 million. Cast: Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell.
  • At no. 5, Nanette Burstein’s romantic comedy Going the Distance debuted with a measly $6.9 million from 3,030 venues. Cast: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. Distributor: Warner Bros. Budget: $32 million.

The American Box Office: Latest George Clooney Underperformer” notes

Unless otherwise noted, “The American Box Office: Latest George Clooney Underperformer” 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,, etc.).

Comments about The American, Machete, Going the Distance, 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.

George Clooney The American movie image: Screen Gems | Sony Pictures.

Danny Trejo Machete movie image: 20th Century Fox.

The American Box Office: Latest George Clooney Underperformer” last updated in October 2023.

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1 comment

Marya -

definitely like the point of this article, although I would say The American was something new and original and wouldn’t really lump it in with those other action pictures you listed.

I’m glad we’re starting to get into awards quality film season, we really need.

also, I hate to quibble, but this new RE movie is the 4th in the series, not the third.


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