Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx watched their dreams of a summer box office hit burn slowly to the ground, much like the Capitol Building the trailer for the movie they hoped would get them there, “White House Down.” The $150 million buddy action movie came from blockbuster maker, director Roland Emmerich, and a script that Sony Pictures paid $3 million to acquire, and yet it couldn’t stand up to returning films, “Monsters University” and “World War Z,” and the new competition “The Heat,” making only $25 million.
So how does a movie with all of that going for it and two leads coming off the biggest year of their careers fail at the same time a film like “World War Z,” the Brad Pitt zombie fest that had nothing but bad buzz, crosses the $250 million mark at the global box office?
The downfall of “White House Down,” which shared a laughably similar plot to surprise hit “Olympus Has Fallen,” comes only a month after the Will Smith vehicle “After Earth” fell completely flat in US theaters, only earning $60 million before being pulled last weekend. Meanwhile, “The Purge,” a movie starring Ethan Hawke that cost $3 million, came out of nowhere to be a box office champion and has cleared $62 million to date.
While every summer has its own shocking successes and surprise failings, the blockbuster season of 2013 seems especially resistant to pre-release buzz, and the next two weekends should test that theory as well. “The Lone Ranger,” Disney’s next attempt at a Johnny Depp-led franchise started to amass critical pans today, including this ripping from HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, and “Pacific Rim,” a movie that has some serious geek anticipation online and positive early reviews, is reportedly tracking poorly in pre-release surveys to gauge audience interest, but many have already scoffed at those predictions.
With so much of the conversation about movies before they had theaters focused squarely on whether they will succeed and spawn sequels, maybe it’s time to pull back on buzz and see how things play out when they actually happen.