Hart's War

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  • Directed By: Gregory Hoblit
  • Written By: John Katzenbach, Billy Ray, Terry George
  • Release Date: February 15, 2002
  • Domestic Distributor: MGM
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard

Box Office Info:
Budget: $70 million Financed by: MGM
Domestic Gross: $19,077,641 Overseas Gross: $13,209,403

MGM financed Hart’s War for $70 million and $21 million of that budget was Bruce Willis’ salary for six weeks of work.  Willis’ previous paycheck came from the MGM flop Bandits.  The lion was also developing other projects for Willis, including Hostage, but after the disastrous performance of Hart they were all put into turnaround.  Edward Norton was originally tied to the lead role that eventually went to Colin Farrell, which would have re-teamed the actor and Gregory Hoblit who launched Norton to fame with Primal Fear — but Norton exited this flop and signed onto the box office disaster Death To Smoochy.

MGM mitigated some risk on the expensive title by selling off some foreign distribution rights.  The studio originally dated Hart’s War for April 5, but moved it forward to February 15, just one week after the studio released their troubled and delayed disaster Rollerball.  Producers David Ladd and David Foster blamed MGM’s marketing campaign for selling it as an action film and not the courtroom drama that was actually filmed.  Foster told the latimes: “They sold a picture that wasn’t there.  It was a misleading, deceptive campaign.”  The marketing decision turned off Willis fans looking for action and also adults who might see a courtroom drama.  Misrepresenting the pic as action packed, also placed Hart’s War in direct competition with MGM’s own stinker Rollerball and the Schwarzenegger vehicle Collateral Damage, which also opened the week prior.

Hart’s War bowed against John Q., Crossroads, Return To Never Land and Super Troopers and placed #7 for the weekend with a terrible $7,771,753.  Hart’s War saw a 42.6% second weekend decline to $4,461,246 and then collapsed 68.6% in its third frame to $1,401,007 when the action war pic We Were Soldiers opened.  Hart’s War closed its domestic run with an awful $19,077,641.  MGM would see back about $10.4 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, leaving much of the P&A spend in the red and the production costs as an expensive write-off.  A few weeks after Hart’s War opened, MGM’s quarter shares dropped 37 cents a share — claiming their $90.8 million quarter loss was mostly attributed to the dismal performance of Rollerball and Hart’s War.

Bruce Willis’ star wattage couldn’t help Hart’s War from being complete bomb overseas, where it tanked in every market.  The UK gross was a pitiful $358,241 and most markets produced numbers under $1 million.  Japan posted the highest gross with $2.9 million and the overseas cume was $13,209,403.

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