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Is Kevin Costner Still a Bankable Box Office Lead?

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Kevin Costner in "3 Days to Kill" (Credit: Relativity)

One of the most well-known names in the world of cinema is Kevin Costner. The affable actor is a two-time Oscar winner, a two-time Golden Globe winner, and an Emmy winner, as well as the star of such iconic films as Bull Durham, Dancing With Wolves, and Field of Dreams. However you'll notice the brunt of that success came from the late '80s and early '90s.

This weekend Costner starred in 3 Days to Kill, his second of (at least) four films due out in 2014. Yet the action thriller failed to deliver big and settled for a distant second place $12 million opening. Granted the film was only made for $28 million. But for someone with Costner's name recognition, it should have been higher. With that in mind many have started asking the question, "Is Kevin Costner still a bankable box office lead?"

Check out the numbers. They are pretty surprising.

The Bankability Breakdown

"The Bankability Breakdown" model isn't that complicated. It takes an actor's five most recent wide release films (where they were the lead and not a member of an ensemble) and then looks at the film's overall profit or loss when compared with its production budget. From there we have a basic, but telling, representation of their recent drawing power. Again, it's a bit simplistic, but it works.

In Costner's case it looks like this:

Domestically it is clear Costner's ability to open a movie on his own name has waned. His last five headlined movies have lost a total of $16.7 million, with only two of them profitable. Yet international audiences are still a major factor in today's box office and usually help lift movies into profitability. Strong oversees grosses have worked in Costner's favor as he's always been a big name worldwide. As a result when those numbers are included four of those five become moneymakers and his overall totals jump to a profit of $117 million.


You also have to look at the intangibles to give you a clearer picture. In Costner's case, there are two massive ones. First, Costner starred in the History Channel original mini-series Hatfield & McCoys, which earned him a number of accolades including an Emmy. Moreover the TV program was a ratings juggernaut and remains one of the most watched non-sports programs in cable TV history.

Secondly, Costner was part of the Man of Steel ensemble in the substantial role of Superman's human adoptive father, Jonathan Kent. The film was a huge success earning nearly $300 million domestically and over $650 million worldwide. Again, because Costner wasn't the lead the film is not included in his bankability breakdown, but it also can't be discounted. Both Hatfields and Steel were milestone pop culture events and Costner had a pivotal role in both.

The future

Costner will have two more chances to up his profitability this year. Lionsgate  (NYSE: LGF  ) is banking on him to boost its April football drama Draft Day and Disney  (NYSE: DIS  ) is looking for him to keep its streak of feel-good sports films alive with November's McFarland.

So putting it all together, Costner is actually a stronger box office lead than people give him credit for ... namely because he still carries with him international appeal. While he may not be the movie star he once was, he's still a "name" and that counts for something. 


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Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (0)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 5:14 PM, bluehighways wrote:

    Well-done analysis. For too long, Costner has a scapegoat for too many "writers" and critics who don't do their homework and use him as a easy, foolhardy whipping boy. Costner's hardly perfect, but he's not as bad an actor, director and -- as this shows -- investment as too many have made him out to be. The guy almost always deserves more credit than he gets. Nice to see -- and no surprise, given the source -- that this article's on the money in more ways than one.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 12:29 PM, Chaco wrote:

    Thank you for this analysis. I definitely used it as research for my story

    Kevin Costner: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Man's Man

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