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How 'The Expendables' won the box office: 5 theories
Sylvester Stallone's 1980s-style action flick beat out "Eat Pray Love" to claim top spot at the box office this week. How?
The Expendables brought in $38 million during its opening weekend.
The Expendables brought in $38 million during its opening weekend.
CC BY: Paul Lowry
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t's been a good weekend for Reagan-era action stars. The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's throwback to the era of musclebound gun-toting action heroes — it also stars Bruce Willis and Dolph Lundgren, and features a cameo by Arnold Schwartzenegger —  won the box office with a remarkable $38 million opening weekend haul. The film had received middling reviews, and was a surprise victor over the much-anticipated Julia Roberts film Eat Pray Love. A sequel is reportedly now in the works. Just how did The Expendables become a hit? (Watch The Expendables trailer)

1. It's classic old-school fun
The Expendables was a "straight-up, no bones about it guy flick of the purest type," says Joseph Baxter at G4. With all the action-comedy-romance hybrids we've seen lately, it was easy to forget how "endearing" the old-school era actually was. Maybe moviegoers are once again ready to "fully embrace the action badass style of days gone by." 

2. Audiences are sick of CGI
It would be tempting to put the success of The Expendables down to America's love of "Apple-pie patriotism," says Steven Zeitchik at the L.A. Times. But the truth is likely more to do with a "moviegoer backlash to 3-D and CG effects" than any "deeper cultural need" for gun-toting American heroes "unbothered by the vagaries of the real world."

3. Audiences are sick of chick flicks
It wasn't just guys enjoying the brawny attractions of The Expendables, says Gloria Goodale at the Christian Science Monitor. In fact, nearly 40 percent of ticket-holders were women. "Today's women do not fit into neat categories," and they don't like being pigeonholed. Perhaps Julia Roberts' "consummate chick flick" was just a bit too obvious. 

4. It had a broad, all-ages appeal
The Expendables served up a selection of action heroes drawn from "the last two generations of American men," says Claude Brodesser-Akner at New York. Not only did you have "Eighties icons like Stallone," but also "Generation Y action stars" like former wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, cage fighter Randy Couture and martial arts star Jet Li. It had something for everyone.

5. It was all action, no comedy
An "emphasis on grenades instead of laughs" was behind the film's success, says box office analyst Jeff Bock, quoted at MTV.com. "The Expendables is a balls-to-the-wall action flick," whereas the summer's other attempts to appeal to that market — The A-Team and Knight and Day — leaned too heavily on laughs. "When action junkies want their fix, hardcore is the only answer."

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