When you close your eyes and picture the perfect movie star, George Clooney probably comes to mind with his meticulously tailored suits, stunning mansion at Lake Como, and lineup of A-list friends. There’s just one problem: Lately, he can’t seem to open a movie.
Clooney’s latest, “Money Monster,” boasting co-star Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster, is only tracking for a $10 million to $14 million opening this weekend. Granted, the thriller was produced for a relatively modest $27 million.
But the 55-year-old actor-director-producer has only starred in four movies that grossed more than $100 million domestically in the last 15 years, three of which were the “Ocean’s” movies, in which he was part of an ensemble cast. The fourth, 2013’s Oscar-winning hit “Gravity,” was billed as a Clooney-Sandra Bullock drama though the actor wound up having much less screen time than the marketing suggested.
“You could definitely say that Clooney’s peak was 10 years ago, and since then he’s done slightly more quirky stuff,” The-Numbers founder Bruce Nash told TheWrap.
While Clooney’s presence can lift the fortunes of modestly budgeted movies like 2011’s “The Descendants,” a $35 million indie-style drama that earned $82 million domestically, he has stumbled when trying to lead pricier mainstream fare.
He directed and starred in the $70 million WWII drama “The Monuments Men,” which grossed just $78 million, and toplined the 2015 dud “Tomorrowland,” which took in $93 million on a $190 million budget.
Earlier this year, Clooney had top billing on “Hail, Caesar!” which turned out to be the lowest-grossing wide-release film for the Coen brothers, only raking in $30 million domestically on a $22 million budget.
“The films we associate George Clooney with as being a great actor aren’t the films doing $500 million,” Nash said. “For example, ‘Monuments Men’ was a film that he probably looked at and thought that it was something that he could really enjoy making both as an actor and director.”
Clooney’s celebrity has always been built on his onscreen charisma and talent as opposed to his mass-market appeal. “He’s just not that box office draw that anyone in ‘Captain America,’ for example, is,” Box Office Prophets analyst and founder David Mumpower told TheWrap. “Or the Rock. It’s never been Clooney’s skill set.”
Clooney may be the rare actor who is more successful behind the camera. He produced “Argo,” which won Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars and grossed $136 million on a $45 million budget.
“Good Night, and Good Luck,” a 2005 black-and-white film Clooney wrote and directed, was nominated for several Oscars and Golden Globes, and earned $31 million on a $7 million budget.
So like his “Money Monster” co-star Julia Roberts, whose last big-screen hit was the $110 million-grossing 2010 ensemble movie “Valentine’s Day,” Clooney seems to thrive at one part of the movie star game: earning and sharing prestige.
“Under-performances at the box office don’t erase the overall body of work for actors like Roberts and Clooney,” BoxOffice.com senior analyst Shawn Robbins told TheWrap, “nor do they overshadow what their stardom helps them achieve through various philanthropic pursuits outside of film.”