‘Act of Valor’ Confounds Hollywood

Monday, 27 Feb 2012 09:18 AM

By James Hirsen

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While Hollywood prepared to honor its own with Oscars, America was letting the entertainment industry know what kind of film fare moviegoers really want to see.

An independently financed, low-budget, pro-military movie took the No. 1 spot on the box-office chart, beating expectations with an estimated $24.7 million in ticket sales.

“Act of Valor” is the title of the film, but the phrase could also be used to describe the efforts taken to produce it.

Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh of Bandito Brothers Production filmed a video for the military in 2007 using authentic active-duty Navy SEALs. The experience left McCoy and Waugh with the desire to make an action film about the elite special forces of the U.S. Navy.

For the starring roles the two ended up using real SEALs that are currently serving their country.

With an original screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, writer of the gladiator epic “300,” the movie enables viewers to accompany the SEALs on a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent.

The names of the SEALs who appear in the movie are not identified, and they are not listed in the film credits either.

Relativity Media acquired the rights to the project in June 2011 for a reported $13 million plus a promise to allocate $30 million for prints and advertising. The amount was described as “the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast” by the Deadline website.

The transaction was a huge risk for an independent studio such as Relativity. In addition to the $15 to 18 million for production costs, the studio spent millions for a number of Super Bowl game day ads.

As for the film critic community, “Act of Valor” opened to mostly negative reviews. It received a 30 percent approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. And the Metacritic website showed an average film critic rating of 42 percent.

However, many of the movie experts were just plain wrong. Relativity was rewarded for its investment with box-office receipts that were higher than many in Hollywood had anticipated.

Movie audiences have spoken, and they have given “Act of Valor" an average grade of A, according to the market research firm CinemaScore. This catapulted it to the number one position, bypassing competing films that featured A-listers in their casts.

It just goes to show that Americans still love to watch films that highlight the heroes who put on the uniform and risk it all for the nation, even when the big-screen stars remain anonymous.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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