When a $789m film franchise turns risky

The latest in the Expendables franchise debuts against box office headwinds.

Expendables movies

Olivia Heller

You wouldn’t expect an action franchise fronted by Sylvester Stallone — one that has also tapped Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, and Jason Statham — to be anything but money in the bank.

But this weekend, Lionsgate will be sweating out the returns of Expend4bles, hoping it won’t become a Hollywood cautionary tale.

Wait, there’s another Expendables movie?

With the high-wattage cast — including Stallone, Statham, Andy Garcia, and Megan Fox — not actively promoting the film due to the ongoing actors’ strike, you may not have even realized the franchise has returned after nine years away.

  • The biggest pop in its marketing push came from cast member 50 Cent’s since-deleted “WTF did we run out of money?” Instagram post, trashing the movie’s promo materials.

That’s a rough start for a movie already facing an uphill climb: The studio reportedly spent heavily on it, despite the third film making $100m+ less than the second.

The summer has been flashing warning signs

With Expend4bles leaning heavily on stunts performed by a 77-year-old Stallone, it couldn’t have been comforting to see moviegoers unenthused by 81-year-old Ford leading the action in the latest Indiana Jones, a film that struggled to make a profit.

Other action franchises’ receipts have been underwhelming. In a business where the rule of thumb says you need to more than double your production budget to make a profit:

  • Fast X made $714.5m on a ~$340m budget.
  • This summer’s Mission: Impossible installment made $566m on a $290m budget.

With its rumored $100m-$200m budget, Expend4bles has its work cut out to show that the franchise isn’t out of gas.

BTW: Looking for a positive? Consider the greatest movie of all time, John Wick 4, which got the ratios right, costing ~$100m and pocketing $432m+.

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