Fire Down Below

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  • Directed By: Félix Enríquez Alcalá
  • Written By: Jeb Stuart, Philip Morton
  • Release Date: September 5, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Steven Seagal, Kris Kristofferson, Marg Helgenberger

Box Office Info:
Budget: N/A Financed by: Warner Bros
Domestic Box Office: $16,228,448 Overseas Box Office: N/A

fire down below 1997

Steven Seagal became attached to Fire Down Below in early 1993, just as the international run was gearing up for his box office hit Under Siege (1992).  The heat around Seagal at that moment led to a huge deal with Warner Bros in February 1993.  The studio locked Seagal into a 4-picture arrangement, where he would be contractually required to star in three WB movies first and then he would have the option of an “out” picture with another studio and then he would be required to topline the fourth WB film.  The “out” movie in this deal was Fire Down Below, which was setup at Sony and was being developed by heavyweight producer Jon Peters.

The first project Seagal pumped out at WB was the hilariously awful On Deadly Ground (1994), which he also directed.  Then in March ’94, Jon Peters left his producing deal at Sony after 5 years and returned to Warner Bros and took numerous projects with him, including Fire Down Below — which was put on the backburner when Seagal landed a $15M payday for his second assignment Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995).  The third picture he toplined for WB was the flop The Glimmer Man (1996) and then Fire Down Below finally went into production.

After only two years since scoring a modest hit with Under Siege 2, Seagal was no longer bankable in the theatrical business.  After Fire Down Below was in the can, WB had no interest in continuing a partnership with the actor, whose weight and ego was also completely out of control.  Fire Down Below was dated for the slow post Labor Day dumping ground on September 5, 1997 and the studio expected the picture to do poor business.

Fire Down Below was not screened for critics and it was the only wide opener over the frame.  No budget information was released by WB.  It tanked with $6,073,094 but actually won the weekend, which saw some of the lowest business in years.  The film fell 46.3% to $3,260,264 the following weekend and then sank 51.7% to $1,575,962 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with only $16,228,448.  WB would see returned about $8.9M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — below their P&A expenses and the theatrical receipts would not dent the budget.

WB dumped Fire Down Below straight to video in the UK, Germany and France.  Offshore numbers are incomplete, but the only recorded numbers from the trades of the day were $4M from a handful of markets.  The actual gross was certainly not much higher.  Seagal and his producing partner Julius Nasso independently raised financing for his next picture The Patriot, but it never landed a theatrical release.  The cantankerous butterball briefly emerged from direct to video hell with Exit Wounds (2001) and Half Past Dead (2002) and then began to pump out multiple lower budget pictures per year for the video market.

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