Is America Ready for Another Iraq War Movie?


Producer Robert May of SenArt Films, who was involved in the release of one of the more talked about Iraq War documentaries, "The War Tapes," which was built around footage shot by the soldiers themselves, said a lot of discussion went into deciding on a release date. "We had to evaluate are we still going to be in this war," he said. "And what would the sentiment be like for audiences; could people be potentially tired of seeing this."

The documentary came out in 2006 and did well, but it was "not a financial windfall by any means," May said.

May agrees that politics may be part of the reason why audiences aren't going to see Iraq: The Movie.

"So many of these films are slanted a certain way; you can kind of tell the filmmaker got involved because they're very cause oriented," said May, who added that contemporary audiences may not want to sit through that kind of political message, however subtle, preferring to spend their money on entertainment.

Add to that the fact that most Americans can go to any one of a number of media outlets -- the Internet, network news or cable shows -- to find out about what's going on in Iraq.

"People feel they know what's going on," May said. "I can just turn on the news; why do I need to see a film about the same thing."

So just how badly do Iraq War movies perform at the box office? Try about $65,000 domestically for "Redacted." By comparison, "Spiderman 3" had the top domestic take last year, pulling in more than $336 million dollars. "Rendition" didn't crack the $10 million mark, even though movies like "Mr. Bean's Holiday" and "Good Luck Chuck" managed to rake in more than $30 million.

And now along comes "Stop-Loss," directed by Kimberly Peirce, who is best known for her first feature film debut, "Boys Don't Cry" (1999). "Stop-Loss" is about a soldier, played by Phillippe, who is ordered back into service shortly after coming home from Iraq.

And with the Hollywood hunk in the lead role, perhaps this movie will defy the conventional wisdom, although Null of, for one, is not convinced.

"I figure it will be about No. 8 at the box office next week, even if it cracks the Top 10," he said. "Here we have another movie about freshly scrubbed Hollywood stars going to Iraq and coming home. I don't see any significant part of the audience saying they have to go see that movie on opening weekend."

With such a dismal financial record, you have to wonder why a studio bigwig would even consider putting money into another Iraq-themed film like the planned movie version of the book "No True Glory," about the battle for Fallujah.

Perhaps they're thinking about another movie that used a war as a backdrop to tell the story of a woman torn between two men. Hanson, of the American Film Institute, calls it the "Gone With the Wind" effect. "There's an old saying in the movie business that before "Gone With the Wind," no civil war movie had ever made any money either," she said.

Of course, GWTW went on to become one of the most financially successful movies of all time.

So, filmmakers who have Iraq War movies in production have at least one reason to take heart.

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