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‘A Good Day to Die Hard’: Is John McClane the last hope for old school action hero?

Will Perkins
Wide Screen
February 7, 2013

Action hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) has been in a lot of tight spots in his day.

McClane, the protagonist of the action-packed “Die Hard” franchise, has inadvertently taken on terrorists and villains of all sorts over the course of four big screen adventures. But the one man wrecking crew is about to face his greatest foe yet: sagging action movie box office numbers!

"A Good Day to Die Hard," the fifth entry in the long running “Die Hard” series, hits theatres next week (just in time for Valentine's Day), and Willis recently announced that a sixth film is already in development. But Willis’s explosive return to cinemas as McClane has been somewhat dampened by the recent high-profile failures of two similarly old school action films: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand” and Sylvester Stallone’s “Bullet to the Head.”

A few weeks ago, we wrote about how 2013 was looking like the year of the '80s action hero. With action icons like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis all returning to theatres within weeks of one another, January and February were poised to become an '80s beefcake cinema renaissance, despite the stars' ages.

And then the movies came out.

Despite surprisingly decent reviews for both films, the $45 million “The Last Stand” tanked with a measly $6.2 million opening weekend and the similarly budgeted “Bullet to the Head” had an unimpressive $4.5 million debut. Not exactly the massive box office numbers that Schwarzenegger and Stallone movies used to command.

See also: 'The Last Stand' bombs at the box office

Does the failure of his action contemporaries mean that Willis's lastest romp as John McClane is also doomed? Well, it's unlikely, although the February release date isn't doing "A Good Day to Die Hard" any favours.

The "Die Hard" franchise has always been a box office powerhouse, with every film in the series making well over $150 million (adjusted for inflation) in domestic ticket sales. McClane's last action outing, 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard," grossed nearly $400 million worldwide on production budget of $110 million. Even for what most fans consider to be the weakest entry in the franchise, those are some pretty nice numbers.

See also: Five film facts about Sylvester Stallone

However, what all the previous "Die Hard" movies had going for them that the latest film doesn't have a prime summer release date. Every entry in the franchise until now was released between May or July -- the height of Hollywood blockbuster season -- putting "A Good Day to Die Hard" at a serious disadvantage against its predecessors.

While Valentine's Day has historically been a solid box office weekend for movies, it simply can't compete with a season dotted by tent pole releases. Good luck out there, John McClane. You're going to need it.

"A Good Day to Die Hard" blasts into theatres on Feb. 14.

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