Will "Saving Private Ryan" be the biggest-grossing war film of all time?

After weeks of intense publicity, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” begins its box office assault today when it will open in more than 2,000 theaters. Not only will the sobering World War II film battle “Disturbing Behavior” and “Mafia!,” the other major movies being released, but it will also lock bayonets with the best war flicks of the past. Its mission: to outearn the current record holder in the genre, “Platoon,” which grossed $12.8 million the weekend it went into wide release in January 1987. (“Platoon” debuted on December 19, 1986, but only on six screens.)

With an all-star cast and perhaps the most graphic combat scenes ever filmed, “Ryan” should emerge the victor, says Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source, a company that makes box office forecasts. He predicts a $21 million opening weekend. Bucksbaum says that “Ryan” will appeal to a wide variety of moviegoers — from Middle Americans, who’ll feel compelled to watch the film for its patriotic themes, to entertainment aficionados, who will be drawn to the movie because of its early Oscar buzz and Spielberg’s involvement. Then there’s the female factor: “A lot of people don’t expect it to do well with women, but we think they’re going to want to see it because of Tom Hanks and Matt Damon.”

Because of their realistic violence and downbeat themes, war movies have never enjoyed the huge opening weekends of such cartoonish action films as “Godzilla.” Despite Tom Cruise’s Oscar-nominated performance, for example, “Born on the Fourth of July” grossed a modest $11 million when it went into wide release. Other opening weekends for war films include: 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket” ($2.2 million), 1987’s “Hamburger Hill” ($3.3 million), and 1989’s “Casualties of War” ($5.2 million). –Gary Eng Walk

Now Greenwood is using his recent big-screen success to help keep him away from the politics of TV. “The thing with series TV is that regardless of how well the pilot is written and how wonderful the intentions of the writers and producers are, the product that you end up putting out week to week often suffers because of the schedule. It’s called feeding the monster — they have to generate a new script every week, and oftentimes logic falls through the cracks. Then characters change, and writers and producers come and go, and networks change their feelings about what the strengths of the show might or might not be.” The end result? “The pilot might be a thoroughbred, but the series could easily turn out to be a camel.”

Saving Private Ryan
  • Movie
  • 170 minutes