It was a knockout punch Sylvester Stallone couldn’t have seen coming. The Italian Stallion’s latest film, Bullet to the Head opened to an estimated $4.5 million dollars over the weekend. It ranks as the lowest opening for a wide release in Stallone’s career. To emphasize that point, here are three spectacular bombs on Stallone’s resume that still opened to bigger numbers than Bullet: 1984’s Rhinestone ($5.4M); 2001’s Driven ($12.1M); and 1992’s Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! ($7M).

The disappointing number for Stallone’s latest caught my eye for a different reason, though. Two weeks prior, box office analysts were blasting holes through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed bid for box-office glory, The Last Stand, when it opened to a meager $6.2M. At the time, pundits said audiences were telling Schwarzenegger – through their financial indifference – that they didn’t believe him in the action-hero role anymore, and they weren’t interested in these standalone law-enforcement endeavors that poke fun of his age.

What, then, do you think they are trying to tell Sly?

Are the days of box-office wine and roses over for the Planet Hollywood crew? Have audiences grown tired of these older men in action-heavy roles?

A few weeks ago, my answer would have been an emphatic, “No,” for several reasons. Stallone’s Expendables franchise, for starters, proves that ticket buyers will show up to see these action icons kicking ass on screen. And while the second Expendables earned less than its predecessor ($85M domestically versus $103M), both films made more than enough on the global market to get the wheels turning on a third installment -- perhaps with Wesley Snipes and Jackie Chan.

Elsewhere, you can also point to Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise as a lucrative property built on the shoulders of an older action hero. The 60-year-old Irishman’s only a few years behind Schwarzenegger (65) and Stallone (66), yet he doesn’t lean on his seniority as a punchline, and audiences have very little trouble accepting him as a lethal weapon. (Speaking of which, we can only pray that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover never reunite for a fifth Lethal Weapon, because that ship has sailed.)

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