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Entertainment behind the scenes

“War, Inc.” strikes box office nerve

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john-cusack-2.jpgIn the past two years, a lot has been written in the media — including by Reuters – that movies about modern war simply haven’t worked at box offices while real world battles rage in Iraq and Afghanistan. Audiences, the experts say, don’t want to escape to a movie theater and be confronted by images they see almost daily on TV news and in newspapers.

But along comes John Cusack in “War, Inc.,” which according to its studio backers has been winning fans and building ticket sales with a satirical tale of a country, Turaqistan, occupied by a private U.S. company run by a former U.S. vice president who hires a hit man (Cusack) to kill an oil minister.

In only two weeks in theaters, “War, Inc.,” has been enough of a success — a john-cusack.jpg$22,857 per screen average in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles — that First Look Studios is expanding to 20 theaters on June 13 and delaying the DVD release by more than three months to Oct. 14 to give the movie time to build an audience. That strategy is very rare these days in Hollywood where the rule of thumb is promote the movie, hope to breakeven in theaters, then sell the heck out of the DVD and maybe turn a profit.

What the eventual outcome is for “War, Inc.”, of course, remains to be seen. But with widely-hyped movies like “In the Valley of Elah,” ”Lions for Lambs” and Cusack’s own “Grace is Gone,” bombing at box offices last year, it could be that “War, Inc.” has just the right stuff to make a hit film out of a war movie.

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