LOS ANGELES • Denzel Washington hit the bull's eye again. The Magnificent Seven, the Oscar-winner's first western, topped the box office, picking up a solid US$35 million (S$47 million).
Hollywood's star system has shrivelled in the past decade, with few new talents emerging to reanimate the ranks and stand alongside Leo and Julia and Johnny and George and Brad. Some of their stars have dimmed, but Washington's still shines brightly.
He has not had a film open to less than US$20 million since 2007's The Great Debaters. He will be back on screens at the end of the year in Fences, an adaptation of August Wilson's play, that he directs and stars in alongside Viola Davis. It is expected to be an Oscar contender.
The Magnificent Seven easily snagged the crown from Sully, the retelling of the Miracle On The Hudson landing that topped the box office for two weeks. The drama slid to third place with US$13.8 million, bringing its stateside total to a healthy US$92.4 million.
Storks, Warner Bros' animated comedy, came in second with US$21.8 million - a disappointing result given that it had been tracking to open to US$30 million or higher. Featuring the voices of Kelsey Grammer and Jennifer Aniston, it cost US$70 million to produce and is part of Warner Bros' effort to reinvigorate its animation division after the studio scored a hit with 2014's The Lego Movie.
The Magnificent Seven cost MGM, Sony and partners about US$90 million to produce, before marketing costs. Its win for Sony Pictures comes after some misfires, including its attempt to revive Ghostbusters into a female-led franchise.
The film is an even bigger win for MGM, which oversaw production and needed a hit to bounce back from its Ben-Hur misadventures last month. It also proves the viability of remaking older films, provided there is some novel spin to provide. In this case, Washington and director Antoine Fuqua were able to stage balletic shootouts that rivalled those in John Sturges' original 1960 film.
They also played up the diversity of their cast, rounding out the cast of mercenaries with Lee Byung Hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier. That multicultural aspect seemed to resonate in a post-#OscarsSoWhite era.