Legionnaire

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    [Total: 6 Average: 3]
  • Directed By: Peter MacDonald
  • Written By: Sheldon Lettich, Rebecca Morrison
  • Release Date: February 9, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: Lionsgate (video release)
  • Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Steven Berkoff

Box Office Info:
Budget: $35 millionFinanced by: Quadra Entertainment
Domestic Gross: $0Overseas Gross: N/A


Sales outfit Quadra Entertainment brought the Jean-Claude Van Damme project Legionnaire to the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for pre-sales.  The budget for Legionnaire was $35 million and strong pre-sales accounted for the majority of the production costs.   Quadra and producer Edward Pressman expected Legionnaire to land a strong domestic distribution acquisition, which would cover the remaining budget gap after international sales.  Studios were circling the project, but no deals were reached.

Once the project was completed in 1998, Van Damme had released two box office turkeys — Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) and his drawing power had been fading after a string of flops starting in 1995.  Legionnaire also began its staggered international theatrical release at the end of 1998, but since the movie was not the usual Van Damme formula of fighting and revenge, it did terrible business.  It went out for domestic studio bids, but only received offers between $4M – $5M.  Quadra and Pressman turned down the offers, since they would not cover the shortfall from pre-sales.  Even though the movie would be guaranteed a wide theatrical release in the US, Van Damme’s drawing power was so low at this point, they knew the picture would never reach profit after the studio would invest into an expensive marketing campaign — and Quadra would never see cash overages flow back to them to cover their exposure to the budget.

The producers decided to go the straight to video route, pocketing any upfront money they could on this stinker through video and TV sales.  A deal was brokered with the USA network worth $3M to broadcast Legionnaire after it would premiere on video.  Lionsgate handled the video release.  Legionnaire was one of the most expensive straight to video releases.

Pressman also briefly flirted with the idea to expand Legionnaire into a TV series if the movie was successful on home video, with cameo appearances by Van Damme — but of course nothing ever materialized.

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s offscreen rival Steven Seagal also had a high profile $35M budgeted movie The Patriot, get dumped straight to TV just 3 days before Legionnaire premiered on video tape.

Overseas numbers are not available.  It premiered on TV in the UK.

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