Clint Eastwood‘s latest movie, Richard Jewell, has flopped at the box office, bringing in only $5 million in its opening weekend, Fox News reports. It’s the worst opening weekend for a Clint Eastwood movie in 40 years.
It seems that critical acclaim and free publicity couldn’t propel the movie, based on actual events, past a fourth-place finish against Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen II, and Knives Out. It did beat out the record-holder for the worst opening ever for an Eastwood movie: back in 1980, Billy Bronco pulled in just $3.7 million on its opening weekend. Other Eastwood flops include Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) and True Crime (1999), both of which opened at $5.2 million, just a hair better than Richard Jewell.
There may yet be hope for Jewell, however. As Variety reports, Eastwood movies, particularly those based on actual events and released in December, tend to take some time to find their audience. What’s more, it’s difficult to get moviegoers into the seats this time of year, as Americans are spending their time and money on holiday shopping and other goings-on.
Still, by the most generous estimates, Richard Jewell is expected to make only $30 million in its theatrical run. The film cost $45 million to make.
“It started out with so much promise in terms of awards season buzz. You’ve got a really high-profile filmmaker with a movie that had a lot of acclaim,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore.
Additionally, some free publicity failed to drum up interest in the film. As CBS News notes, the film raised eyebrows with its portrayal of the relationship between Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs and an FBI agent.
The film tells the story of the real-life Richard Jewell, who was a security guard at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Jewell found a backpack containing three pipe bombs. Afterward, he ordered the area evacuated and notified the police. At least one of the bombs detonated, killing one person and injuring over 100 others.
Jewell was at first considered a hero. However, the FBI later deemed him a suspect. The intense investigation, and the treatment he received in the media, took a toll on his mental and physical health. Though he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the damage had already been done.
Jewell eventually sued multiple news agencies and other institutions, receiving various settlements and awards for damages.
Following his exoneration, Jewell worked as a law enforcement officer and gave speeches. He died on August 29, 2007 of complications from diabetes.