Over the weekend a couple of Hollywood’s biggest stars released the latest summer blockbuster hoping to hit it big. In “White House Down” Jamie Foxx stars as the President of the United States, while Channing Tatum plays the cop out to save him. The movie is eerily reminiscent of another recent release that did pretty well, a movie called “Olympus has Fallen.” With similar plot lines, scenery and drama, these two movies will probably always be compared to each other – much like Deep Impact and Armageddon — two other movies with similar themes that released around the same time.
There are a few big differences between these movies, though.
One of these movies was made for more than double what the other was. At 150 million dollars, White House Down (WHD) is truly a big budget action extravaganza. The studio was banking on the star cache of Jamie Foxx and the action talent of Channing Tatum. The movie didn’t look all that risky, especially with big names and a big budget attached, but just in case, the studio poured a lot of money into advertising for this film. They put their two stars front and center, and made sure every male in the United States knew that this would be one of the loudest, fastest, and most explosive action films of the summer.
Olympus has Fallen (OHF) on the other hand was made for about 70 million dollars, and while that’s nothing to sneeze at, it’s nowhere close to the 150 million it’s competitor got. While WHD went for big names in it’s leading men, OHF decided to go with a deeper cast including veterans: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Ashley Judd. None of theses movie stars is currently leading big budget blockbusters, but they are all excellent actors whom movie fans love to watch. The studio didn’t seem that invested in it because advertising was minimal, but the movie made up with limited advertising by great word of mouth. It had a lot of big action, but apparently at a much cheaper price than WHD.
So one of these movies had a huge budget, two big-time leading men, a huge advertising push, and a summer release. The other had a smaller budget, no current major star, limited advertising, and an early spring release. Which one do you think did better? Before you answer, let me tell you about the last difference between these two movies.
In WHD the bad guys are all too familiar… and they are all “right-wing”. WHD trots out all of the worst Hollywood stereotypes about what it means to be “right-wing”; we are apparently all slaves to the “military-industrial complex” and we love our corrupt corporations. If we’re not military or from a corporation, we are probably back woods, racist, bomb throwing, hate bloggers from Podunk. It’s embarrassing how many right-wing tropes this movie trots out for its viewers. It almost feels like they didn’t realize that they were insulting half the country when they made this movie. Just for good measure, the movie also lets you know that the good guys are all liberals who want to “cure” poverty, and the conservatives are in the pocket of corporations and the military industrial complex.
In OHF the bad guys are… from North Korea. Amazing! Hollywood decided to use an actual enemy of our country that has threatened to launch nuclear missiles at us as the bad guys in a movie. I have no idea how they figured out that using an actual threat to our country might make the story more believable and less offensive to Americans. In this movie, North Koreans for reasons understood (and found reasonable) by everyone watching, decide to attack us during a summit with South Korea. This movie has no openly hostile rhetoric towards any group of Americans – conservative, liberal, independent – it’s just about making a fun, fast paced, action thriller.
Now that you have all of that info… who want’s to guess which movie was better received?
On it’s opening weekend in the Spring, OHF brought in just over 30 million dollars. Compare that to WHD’s sum of 24 million, and it’s clear which movie won with audiences. White House Down couldn’t win despite a huge advantage in advertising money and in timing for release.
Hollywood needs to wake up if it wants to stay relevant and profitable in the 21st century. There are too many entertainment options available, and you can’t belittle half of your potential market if you want to make money.
If you’re looking to see a fun, fast paced action movie, Olympus has Fallen is well worth your time. It’s a solid movie with good acting and great action. On the other hand, I wouldn’t waste my time (not to mention my money) on White House Down. Wait until it’s running on TBS some Saturday afternoon.