Argo, the new directorial effort from Ben Affleck, is about a period of time when America's relationship with Iran was in bad shape. The Warner Bros. release focuses on an unconventional effort to free American hostages who were held captive in Iran from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981—a total of 444 days.
America's relationship with Iran is once again in bad shape. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to make headlines with statements that irritate the international community. Meanwhile, President Obama has made it clear that he does not want Iran to have nuclear capabilities. Pundits on the right and the left acknowledge that war with Iran is becoming more of a possibility.
All of this tension turns Argo into a more topical movie. Yet being topical doesn't always lead to success at the box office.
Recent Hollywood history is littered with topical films that failed. Just look at most of the dramas that chose to grapple with America's "War on Terror." Flops include Green Zone ($35 million domestic, $65.9 million international), In the Valley of Elah ($6.7 million domestic, $22.7 million international) and even The Hurt Locker ($17 million domestic, $33 million international).
Argo bears some resemblance to Munich, Steven Spielberg's unflinching look at the violence that erupted between Israel and Palestine after 11 Israeli athletes were killed by a Palestinian group called Black September during the 1972 Summer Olympics. Munich won its share of critical praise, but it managed only $47.4 million domestically. Munich was a bigger hit internationally with $82.9 million.
Argo could easily follow in Munich's footsteps when it comes to domestic vs. international grosses. Warner Bros. is slated to open Argo in key international territories such as the UK, Germany and Russia in early November. Japan, Australia and Spain will get the film on October 26.