A Cold Weekend for Steve Austin

This past weekend saw World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE  ) shareholders on their feet. They were rooting for Stone Cold Steve Austin's film, The Condemned, released by Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF  ) , to win the royal rumble at the multiplex. Did the movie triumph?

Not really.

According to estimates from, The Condemned grossed roughly $4 million at domestic theaters over the weekend. It currently is in ninth place (final numbers are due later today, so the rank could change).

Stone Cold chose a tough weekend to stand out in. Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) Disturbia thriller held on to the number-one spot, and its Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory is still going strong after having passed $100 million. Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Meet the Robinsons also came out ahead of The Condemned and is itself gunning for the century mark.

Well, this pretty much is par for the course. WWE's previous two movie outings, See No Evil and The Marine, released by Lions Gate and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) , respectively, also received lukewarm audience support. Now that three movies have been released, with not a single unqualified hit among them, I'd guess that it is a good time for the company to review its developmental process.

As I've intimated previously, WWE needs to begin with a strong concept first, and then see if one or more of its wrestlers adds value to it. Right now, the company seems to be looking for scripts for the sole purpose of exploiting a wrestler's brand equity. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but WWE Films shouldn't be about finding projects for talent; instead, it should be about producing youth-targeted projects that will benefit from the promotional engine of WWE's various programming platforms. If this kind of selection process were put in place, I think WWE Films would find more success.

I honestly would have thought that fans would have come out in larger numbers for Stone Cold's major motion picture debut, but it didn't happen. Ancillary channels such as DVD and pay-TV will help amortize the expenditures behind the film, but as I mentioned in my article on Friday, WWE is still waiting for costs to be recouped by its distributing partners before it can add celluloid revenue to the books. That's why WWE must ensure that its next movie projects are hits -- it needs that cash flow to justify its continued investment in Hollywood.

WWE should continue to experiment with movies, but it definitely has to take a hard look at the scripts it decides to develop. The big screen offers a lot of growth opportunity so long as a film division can be managed properly -- WWE should review its goals for this operation and adjust accordingly.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney. He's ready to consult with the McMahons if called upon to help out on the next WWE film. As of this writing, he was ranked 12,092 out of 28,071 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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