article by Brent Lang via Variety.com
Denzel Washington hits the bullseye again. “The Magnificent Seven,” the Oscar-winner’s first Western, topped the box office this weekend, picking up a solid $35 million.
Hollywood’s star system has shriveled in the past decade, with few new talents emerging to reanimate the ranks and stand alongside Leo and Julia and Johnny and George and Brad. Some of those stars have dimmed as the years tick by, but Washington’s still shines brightly. “He’s one of the last great action heroes,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “He’s so believable in those roles and he has a ferocity that works cinematically.”
Indeed, Washington hasn’t had a film open to less than $20 million since 2007’s “The Great Debaters,” a remarkable display of consistency. He’ll be back on screens at the end of the year in “Fences,” an adaptation of August Wilson’s play, that he directs and stars in alongside Viola Davis. It is expected to be an Oscar contender.
“The Magnificent Seven” easily snagged the crown from “Sully,” the retelling of the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing that topped the box office for two weeks. The drama slid to third place with $13.8 million, bringing its stateside total to a healthy $92.4 million. Like “The Magnificent Seven,” it is benefiting from the popularity of a veteran movie star. In this case, Tom Hanks, who plays the hero pilot.
“The Magnificent Seven’s” success is welcome news for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which was body checked this summer after “Ben-Hur,” its $100 million-plus Biblical epic, collapsed at the box office, resulting in at least $70 million in losses for the studio and its production co-financiers. Earlier this month, MGM reduced its annual profit projections by roughly $50 million because of “Ben-Hur’s” failure.
But “The Magnificent Seven” counts as a win for the company. It also proves the viability of remaking older films, provided there is some novel spin to apply. In this case, Washington and director Antoine Fuqua were able to stage balletic shootouts that rivaled those in John Sturges’ original 1960 film. They also played up the diversity of their cast, rounding out the band of mercenaries with South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee, Mexican actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Native American actor Martin Sensmeier. That multi-cultural aspect seemed to resonate in a post-#OscarsSoWhite era, and at a time when Hollywood blockbusters are faulted for offering few roles to people of color.
Sony Pictures distributed “The Magnificent Seven” and teamed with MGM, LStar Capital, and Village Roadshow to finance the $90 million production. “It’s a fun film that’s going to be around for awhile,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “Antoine Fuqua delivered an action-packed visceral ride with a great ensemble cast.”
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