LOS ANGELES – Western movies are making their way into theaters again. With six big western films --“Bone Tomahawk,” “The Hateful Eight,” “The Revenant,” “Diablo,” “Forsaken” and “Jane’s Got a Gun”-- coming out in December and January, movie goers will be taken back to the John Wayne western days. But will these films live up to the classics and bring in big box office bucks?
Dain Gainor, VP of business and culture for the Media Research Center, said there are some key components that all great westerns of yesteryear contained.
“Great westerns had it all – amazing scenery; good guys and bad guys; incredible action; beautiful, strong women; and things worth living and dying for,” he said.
Gainor added that classic westerns were the “ultimate American story – big country, bigger heroes and the biggest stars.”
Steven Gaydos, Variety’s executive features editor, notes great westerns have not been made in several years.
“I don’t think there is a rule that says no one can make a great western again, but for some reason it’s not part of our vernacular anymore,” he explained. “We went through a huge phase of what were called revisionist westerns. They set the heroism of the western on its head. That was the last great modification or enhancement or evolutionary step in the western.”
Gainor believes that although we have no John Wayne to star in present day movies, the upcoming films have potential to do just as well.
“All of these movies have the potential to be good,” he said. “But Hollywood has no one as big a star as John Wayne to fill the roles. There is some serious talent in those upcoming films – like Kurt Russell and Leonardo DiCaprio – but most of it is buried in [Quentin] Tarantino’s likely gore-fest, ‘The Hateful Eight.’ These films will be successful if they allow moviegoers to escape and don’t target them.”
A successful western has some serious box office potential.
For example, 1990’s western “Dances with Wolves,” starring Kevin Costner, grossed $184 million and 2010’s “True Grit,” starring Jeff Bridges earned $171 million.
Gaydos is hopeful that some of the upcoming westerns will generate big box office numbers. He suggested “The Revenant”—opening Christmas day—could be a hit.
“The thing with ‘Revenant,’ the studio has invested I saw a report that the movie cost $135 million, clearly the studio thinks Leonardo DiCaprio and the filmmaker have the ability to turn that into a big global hit.”
You can follow Blanche Johnson on Twitter @blancheFOXLA.