Why "The Expendables 2" Disappointed at the Box Office Despite Better Reviews

The Expendables 2

The pre-release buzz was there. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis would have bigger roles. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris were added to the cast of existing action icons.

Reviews were significantly better than the previous film - 67% compared to 41%, for the second and first film, respectively.

Box office analysts were predicting between $37M-$42M for the opening of “The Expendables 2.” At $28.8M over the weekend, it opened way below that range. So what happened?

Ray Subers from BoxOfficeMojo.com didn’t think the first film was well-regarded enough and that the sequel has nothing new to add to the plate: “First, the original movie needs to be incredibly well-liked, and that's not necessarily the case with The Expendables: it has a 6.5 rating on IMDb, which is very middle-of-the-road for a male-skewing action movie. Perhaps more importantly, though, the sequel needs to appear to offer something new, which The Expendables 2 didn't really do. Sure, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris joined the cast, but neither of them was featured prominently in commercials. Instead, the emphasis was on the expanded roles for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, which was tricky to convey given that both actors were included in marketing material for the first outing.”

Gitest Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com thought the novelty of the first film had worn off and that the recent gun incidents at movie theaters are scaring away audiences: “The original Expendables was the first of its kind to combine so many macho action heroes under one roof. But that novelty was gone with the sequel which essentially followed the same formula adding some new faces to the mix for action fans that loved the machine gun flicks of the 1980s. Recent audience sensitivity to guns in the wake of several shootings around the country, and bomb scares at Carmike Cinemas on opening day, may have had some contribution to the 17% drop in opening weekend sales for the latest Expendables installment.”

Andrew Stewart of Variety blamed it on competition from other films with the same demo: “In the U.S., recent competition among male-skewing pics may have hurt ‘Expendables,’ the fourth such film to bow since ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’” The other two being “The Bourne Legacy” and “Total Recall.”

These are all legitimate reasons. What I think also hurt the film’s opening is the fact that Sylvester Stallone, the captain of the ensemble of action stars, skipped many of the promotional activities for the film because of his son’s death in July.

Still, Lionsgate is optimistic that “The Expendables 2” would catch up to the first film in the coming weeks. They think it’ll will have long legs due to its A- cinemascore and older demographics, who tend not to rush out to watch movies during opening weekend.

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