Insert pun about JCVD movie plots here

I know, I know, a post that isn’t a new episode. I’m scared, too, but we can get through this. Just breathe.

To refresh your memory: on our last episode, Joe talked about how he viewed Sudden Death as the point that marked the waning of Jean-Claude’s illustrious career. We joked that the best way to see this trend would be to graph the amount of money each JCVD film made.

Long story short, at the risk of taking a joke too far, I whipped up a quick chart to see if this really was the case. BEHOLD:

He can do the splits

A few points of clarification on this. First, I drew the revenue data from Wikipedia, which in turn drew mostly from Box Office Mojo. If you’ve got a quibble with the numbers used, bring it up with them. Second, due to the lack of data on certain titles, I decided to stick with domestic, rather than worldwide revenue. I plotted what I had of worldwide data and the trend was exactly the same, though, so in the end it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Lastly, I plotted each movie’s budget on the same graph, but the trend was nearly identical and just cluttered things up, so I removed that and added some disembodied JCVD heads instead. I think I made the right call.

So what did we find? Against all odds, Joe was pretty much right on the money this time. After a steady climb that peaks at Timecop (of all movies) in 1994, Van Damme’s gross revenue per movie begins to plummet, with Sudden Death making less than half of what Timecop did only a year later. (Yes, Street Fighter also came out after Timecop and made less, but it was still one of JCVD’s biggest earners and was pretty heavily promoted. I’d personally classify it as his last big film, rather than the beginning of the end.) Of course, Sudden Death still made about $20 million, so it’s only a relative failure. I’d gladly accept $20 million. (This Action Cast gig doesn’t exactly put food on the table, you know.)

I should specifically mention JCVD (the film, not the guy.) That movie’s box office revenue in the U.S. was only $470,691 – but it had an extremely limited theatrical showing in the U.S. It’s probably not fair to compare it to the others, then, but I think it gives it some artsy cred by doing so.

There are also a few omissions, of course. Universal Soldier: The Return was Jean-Claude’s last film in theatres, but he released several direct-to-video movies after, which obviously weren’t included here. In fact, one of the biggest holes in the data are the home video sales, as this is just box office numbers. (I’d bet good money that Bloodsport and Kickboxer made significantly more money than some of these other films on the home market, for example, and speaking from personal experience, seeing those in syndication contributed more to my appreciation of Van Damme than anything else did.) Still, the idea was to use this as a proxy for fame, and I think it works pretty well in that regard. Shockingly well, even, given how volatile audiences can be.

So there you have it. One man’s life work, reduced to a single line graph. I’m actually a little surprised the the majority of his career took place within a single decade. It felt a lot longer than that. Show business is rough, I suppose. Maybe next time I’ll try to find a way to graph the ability to do the splits, to make him feel better.


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