With ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘High Noon’ remakes, will the western ride again?

Gary Cooper starred as a principled marshal in 1952's "High Noon."
Gary Cooper starred as a principled marshal in 1952’s “High Noon.”
(Universal Pictures)

When Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” arrives in theaters Friday, it will mark another attempt to resuscitate one of Hollywood’s most beloved and beleaguered genres — the western.

Though westerns were once as ubiquitous in Hollywood as comic book films are now, and shaped the cinematic sensibilities of many modern directors, their popularity waned in the 1970s. Additionally, some costly flops in the last decade, such as Disney’s 2013 “Lone Ranger” reboot and Universal’s 2011 “Cowboys & Aliens,” have scared studios off of spending big money to bring back the genre.

But Fuqua’s update of John Sturges’ 1960 band of outlaws tale looks set to have a robust opening for Sony Pictures, thanks in part to its starry, multicultural cast, including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Byung-hun Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.

“The Magnificent Seven” trailer.


If early box office estimates of around a $40 million opening weekend pan out, the movie will surpass the opening weekends of other recent successful cowboy films, such as Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 “True Grit” remake, which bowed at $24.8 million, and Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 “Django Unchained,” which opened at $30.1 million.

On “Magnificent Seven’s” heels will come more in the genre -- on Friday, new Relativity Studios president Dana Brunetti told the Hollywood Reporter that he had obtained the rights to remake “High Noon,” the 1952 Oscar winner starring Gary Cooper as a retiring sheriff protecting his small town. The modernized version, which does not yet have a writer or director attached, will be set along the cartel-controlled U.S.-Mexico border.

On Oct. 21, Blumhouse Productions, the company best known for its lower budget horror fare like the “Paranormal Activity” and “Purge” franchises, will see its first western hit theaters. Ti West’s “In a Valley of Violence,” which stars Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga and John Travolta, will be distributed in a limited theatrical release from Focus World and through video on demand.

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Meanwhile, one of the summer’s most successful art house releases has been David Mackenzie’s “Hell or High Water,” a western heist film that stars Jeff Bridges as a Texas lawman on the trail of two bank-robbing brothers trying to save their family’s ranch (Chris Pine and Ben Foster). The Lionsgate release has grossed $21 million worldwide against its $12 million production budget since its Aug. 12 opening, and seems likely to keep coasting at the box office thanks to universally strong reviews.

Though Fuqua has said he grew up a fan of the western genre, the director sought to distance his film from Sturges’ while talking to reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival recently.

“Let that movie be that movie,” Fuqua said of Sturges’ “Seven.” “We’ll be a different movie.”

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