A Look Back at Act of Valor’s Success

Now that Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor has been published for almost three months and the movie Act of Valor has been on the movie box office hits list for a full six weeks (debuting at #1 in its first week of release on February 28), its fair to ask: What just happened?…as well as…Why did it happen?  Deconstructing events over the past several months in regards to the book and the movie may reveal less about these two artistic pursuits and more about a subtle shift in American core values.

Stepping back a few paces, it is worth considering what a long shot this book and movie represented.  As reported previously on this blog, Act of Valor began as a documentary and only morphed into a feature fill somewhere along the way during the two years that Bandito Brothers film crews chronicled SEAL training at numerous training sites across America.  Worse, from a box office point of view, there are no big names, no bankable stars in the movie.  The stars are active duty Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, or SWCCs.  It was a major gamble for Relativity Media, but it paid off handsomely.

How handsomely?  Act of Valor grossed over $62M over the first four weeks after release, smashing pundits’ predictions about how well this unique movie would do.  Not only that, but audiences routinely stood, cheered and clapped at the end of the movie, representing a welling up of patriotism some thought lost in 2012 and also showing a genuine and deeply felt appreciation for the professionals in the SEAL and SWCC community who, literally, put their lives on the line for their fellow Americans every day.

Likewise, the novelization of the movie, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor which Dick Couch and I had the privilege of writing, spent most of the first quarter of this year on the New York Times mass market paperback best-seller list.  While most novelizations are “carried” by the movie, i.e. once a movie is a hit people also become interested in the novelization, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor broke out on New York Times mass market paperback best-seller list the week it was released (six weeks prior to the movie’s release) and remained there for eight weeks, rising as high as #4 on the list (as well as #4 on the Publisher’s Weekly best-seller list.  And the book is still selling well, its end-of-quarter statistics show 440,000 copies in print and the book is already into its fifth printing.

Why did this happen?  Big name actors?  No.  Big name writers?  No.  What happened is the movie and book struck a chord in Americans who were unaccustomed to seeing core values such as honor, courage, commitment, character, nobility, sacrifice, and family values displayed in an action-packed film.  That is what started a viral marketing campaign that drew people irresistibly to the movie and novelization.  America in 2012 is a better place as a result of these two artistic efforts.

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