So much for conventional wisdom.
As we reported yesterday, 'The Expendables' flouted both expectations and good taste to dominate the box office with an impressive $35 million haul in its first weekend in release. That figure, of course, is a bit of a surprise to industry watchers, but the more surprising fact? It's also the biggest opening weekend in Stallone's career. Hey guys, remember Sylvester Stallone? Back in 1976, 'Rocky' obliterated the box office and launched Stallone to Hollywood's A-list, a status he would enjoy for nearly 20 years before his star, like that of so many aging action heroes, began to fade. So when 'The Expendables' was announced it was assumed that, a few nostalgia seekers aside, the movie would be just another desperate attempt to reclaim relevance from an actor past his prime.
So much for conventional wisdom.
As we reported yesterday, 'The Expendables' flouted both expectations and good taste to dominate the box office with an impressive $35 million haul in its first weekend in release. That figure, of course, is a bit of a surprise to industry watchers, but the more surprising fact? It's also the biggest opening weekend in Stallone's career.
Of course, that's partially because of inflation, as well as the fact that the movie, which also stars action icons Jason Statham and Jet Li, opened in 3,270 theaters, the most in Stallone's career as a leading actor. But while some of his hits from the '70s and '80s had a higher opening weekend attendance than 'The Expendables,' none came close to it in terms of pure dollar amount.
So is 'The Expendables' a flash in the pan? Or does this mark the beginning of a new golden age in Sly cinema? The answer to Stallone's box office future may lie in his box office past, so here's a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of Stallone's career according to the only critic that matters -- the almighty dollar:
• 'Rocky' -- After toiling for years as a bit player in the business, Stallone became an instant heavyweight as writer and star of 'Rocky,' which not only earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, but also took in a whopping $117 million at the box office -- the equivalent of over $437 million in today's money.
• 'Rocky II' and 'Rocky III' -- Despite Stallone's new status as a mega-star, however, he actually struggled at the box office outside of the 'Rocky' franchise. While 'Rocky II' earned a solid $85 million in 1979 and 'Rocky III' eclipsed the original with $125 million in 1982, his other movies languished, with 'F.I.S.T.,' 'Paradise Alley,' 'Nighthawks' and 'Victory' earning barely $52 million combined.
• 'Rambo: First Blood Part II' -- 1985 would have been a good year for Stallone based solely on the $127 million earned by 'Rocky IV.' But it was turned into a career year by 'Rambo II,' which took in over $150 million, the highest gross of Stallone's career -- and, incidentally, more than three times as much as the original 'First Blood' had earned three years earlier, showing the new power of the video market. 'Rambo II's' opening weekend haul of $20.1 million would remain a high for Stallone as a lead until 'The Expendables.'
• 'Cliffhanger' -- 1993's rock-climbing thriller 'Cliffhanger' brought in a respectable $16 million in its opening weekend, en route to a final tally of $84 million. That was good enough for tenth place on the yearly box office chart. It was also the last time Stallone would sniff the top 10 in a career that had begun it's own inevitable plummet to Earth.
• 'Spy Kids 3D: Game Over' -- With an opening weekend gross of $33.4 million and a total domestic tally of $111 million, 'Spy Kids 3-D' was Stallone's biggest opening ever and his highest grossing film in 18 years. But Stallone was just a second stringer in an already established, kid-friendly franchise headed by Antonio Banderas.
• 'Rocky Balboa' and 'Rambo' -- In 2006, Stallone returned to his bread and butter with 'Rocky Balboa' in an attempt to resurrect his flagging career and the move paid off, as the film took in a decent $12 million on opening weekend and finished at $70 million. But 2008's 'Rambo' didn't fare so well: despite bringing in a hefty $18 million in its first weekend, the film floundered to a final tally of $42, meaning the opening weekend accounted for fully 40% of its total -- numbers that suggest that Stallone may want to enjoy the success of 'The Expendables' while he can.