Adult soft dramas expect to hit the box office with a soft opening, but the Warner Bros. movie Sully defied expectations when it rakes in $35.5 million during its opening weekend, defeating predictions by a third.
Sully is Clint Eastwood’s movie is based on the true story of the famous Chelsey Sullenberger. Sullenberger was the pilot of the Airbus 320 that was forced into a water landing on the Hudson River in 2009. On that day, Sullenberger was able to safely land the plane on the water, ditch the plane, and save the lives of 150 passengers and crew members. The story became known as a great modern tall of American heroism and patriotism.
Yet, the film’s success is likely attributed more than its powerful message on an otherwise dreary weekend for Americans.
The film brings two stars with pulling power, particularly for adults. Tom Hanks starred at the title character Sully. Meanwhile, long-time megastar actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood directed the picture.
The pair worked together in the same capacity on the smash 2014 biopic American Sniper.
Data from comScore noted that 39 percent of reporting audience members went to see Hanks, and 20 percent went because of Clint Eastwood. The film, which is considered an adult drama, also had an adult audience with 80 percent of ticket holders being over 35 years old.
The IMAX opportunity also likely helped boost box office figures. Sully offered viewers a regular cinema or IMAX experience, but what’s more, it is the first film to ever be shot only with IMAX cameras.
The film is already being slated as an Oscar contender, and films in its category tend to pick up momentum after their release.
Sully displaced two other films for the top spot over the weekend. When the Bough Breaks also opened last weekend. The film took in $15 million, which was short of the $20 million opening weekend predicted for the film. Still, Sony’s distribution chief said he was happy with the result, musing that “to gross $15 million on a picture that cost $10 million to make” was still a success for the studio.
The Eastwood film also displaced horror-thriller Don’t Breathe, which dominated the box office for two weeks. The film earned $8.2 million last weekend, which it brought its grand total to $66.8 million. Don’t Breathe had a production budget of only $9.9 million.
Meanwhile, the summer animation movies all languished as children went back to school. The Wild Life, a film featuring talking animals and Robinson Crusoe, brought in only $3.4 million on its opening weekend.
Tom Hank’s portrayal of Sully is already being lauded as a spectacular performance, and his uplifting performance has been noted by critics as Hanks’s shot at an Academy Award next season. However, Sully will encounter competition in its adult drama genre soon.
Movie theaters are currently preparing for Bridget Jones’s Baby, which while a different class of film, may appeal to many of the over-35 crowd who may have seen Sully next weekend. In a year of underperforming sequels, the sequel to the early-2000s hit may gather enough nostalgia among older moviegoers and among those looking for a strong, complex female lead to make serious money.
Another competitor is Open Road’s Snowden. But given that Edward Snowden is a patriot in some circles and a traitor in others, it is unclear whether the film will pull viewers from Eastwood’s patriotic production.
Whether Sully can maintain its status at the top of the box office charts is unclear, but it remains a film that its audience will continue to talk about both after opening weekend, and potentially around Oscar season.
[Photo By Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]