Another Anti-War Movie Tanks at the Box Office

Will they ever learn?

Another anti-war movie is tanking at the box office. Overnights for Friday show the film "Stop Loss" garnering an anemic $1.4 million for a projected $4 million opening weekend. This despite a huge build up and massive ad campaign with great reviews from movie/war critics.

Not one Iraq war movie has been anything close to a financial success. In fact, it is fair to say that every single anti-war film to date has lost its shirt:

In the Valley of Elah (2007) - $6.8 million.
Redacted (2007) - $.06 million.
The Kingdom (2007) - $47.4 million.
Rendition (2007) - $9.7 million.
Lions for Lambs (2007) - $15 million.
Home of the Brave (2006) - $.04 million.
(HT: Cinematical)

"The Kingdom" - a drama about the FBI investigating a terrorist attacks on Americans in Saudi Arabia - ended up getting about half its $80+ million budget back in receipts. It's actually an exciting film and doesn't even mention Iraq (although the last scene shows a moral equivalence between terrorism and our efforts to stop it).

But the blockbuster "Lions for Lambs" ($15 million gross) which starred Hollywood heavies Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and Robert Redford (who all agreed to forgo their usual huge salaries for a percentage of profits from the film) earned back far less than half its $35 million production costs.

And director Brian De Palma's hysterical anti-war, anti-military depiction of the rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her family depicted in "Redacted" was so bad it never even made it into general release. And that from an "A-1" Hollywood director.

So why are anti-war films tanking? Here's one take from an industry analyst:

“It’s not looking good,” a studio source told me before the weekend. “No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It’s a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that’s unresolved yet. It’s a shame because it’s a good movie that’s just ahead of its time.”
"Ahead of its time?" Moviegoers "not ready" to see Iraq War movies? Allahpundit scoffs at that notion:
They keep making ‘em even though we keep not watching ‘em, which shows you how committed they are to the message and/or fearful of testing that “America’s not ready yet” hypothesis with a pro-war flick. Check out the trailer for this abortion if you missed it last year. One shopworn anti-war contrivance after another, right down to the cringeworthy graphic of a tattered flag. No wonder even the left doesn’t want to sit through this crap.
Allah is off base suggesting that Hollywood places more importance on the anti-war message than on the idea that the film will make any money. If there is one place in the United States where money is worshipped more than in Hollywood, I can't think of it. When a production company spends $80 million on a film and loses nearly $40 million, the chances of them getting backing from a major studio to make another film is severely reduced.  This alone is motivation to make a film they are pretty certain will make money.

That $40 million in losses is real money. Even losing half that is a catastrophe. The exception to this was probably De Palma's "Redacted" (Cost: $5 million of DePalma's own money) where the director admitted he wanted to instruct the American people on how to feel about the war and ended up making an incoherent mess of a movie that even anti-war critics panned. 

What's the problem then? Insularity is one explanation. The liberals in Hollywood believe everyone thinks the way they do about the war because their friends and associates all believe the same things. They think their wildly leftist worldview is mainstream.

Another reason most of Hollywood believes making anti-war films will rake in gobs of money is the success of such films in the past. "Platoon," "Coming Home," "Born on the Fourth of July" - all grossed very well at the box office. (If they had noticed that John Wayne's "Green Berets" did pretty well also, they may have had second thoughts.) In Hollywood, nothing succeeds like success.
Finally, as Allah points out, Hollywood refuses to make any movie that could be construed as "pro-war" or "pro troops." I am not as convinced as some are that such a movie would do boffo business at the box office. I think Americans just wish the war would go away at this point and want nothing to with either a pro or anti war movie. I may be wrong but war weariness seems to be the dominant feeling about Iraq among the American people and spending $7-10 bucks to watch something they wish would just disappear - even if they are supportive of our efforts in Iraq - just doesn't seem logical to me.

There are many explanations for why Iraq War films are doing  badly as this article in the Washington Post demonstrates:

Film historian Jonathan Kuntz of UCLA points out that most memorable war films appear many years after a conflict ends, when the nation has had time to reflect on the experience and a historical consensus emerges about the war's successes and failures.

The classic films about Vietnam -- starting with "The Deer Hunter," "Coming Home" and "Apocalypse Now" in 1978 and 1979 and ending with "Born on the Fourth of July" in 1989 -- came out years after the last U.S. serviceman had left the battlefield. "M*A*S*H," which was essentially an anti-Vietnam film but set in the Korean War, was released nearly 20 years after the Korean armistice. But the outcome in Iraq remains an open question, with America's military commitment to the country under constant debate.
There may be something to that. We all may be too close to the political arguments and the emotional investment in defending or opposing the war to be able to see the war as a diversion or as entertainment.

Eventually, we may reconcile our feelings about the war and place it into the context of our national narrative. Until then, it appears that the American people just want to be left alone.