With this Friday’s release of Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” — an awards contender, starring Tom Hanks as the pilot who made an emergency landing in the Hudson River — the remainder of 2016 box office will proceed at a breakneck pace. However, it may be tough to match this weekend against last year when “The Perfect Guy” and “The Visit” each crossed $25 million.
“Sully” looks to lead the weekend with over $20 million; it could be considerably higher. The Telluride premiere led to positive critical reaction, and its heroic story — along with Eastwood’s box-office draw after the mammoth “American Sniper” ($350 million domestic) — should give it heft.
In the 12 years since his last Oscar Best Picture winner, “Million Dollar Baby,” Eastwood made nine films. Two of them — “American Sniper” and “Gran Torino” — domestically grossed a half billion dollars combined. His other seven movies made less than $250 million total, mostly in the range of $30 million-$50 million each. Warner Bros., his partner for all but three of his films as director, stuck with him because he keeps budgets low (mostly $40 million or lower, though the last two increased to $60 million.)
Of course, “Flight” in 2012 similarly featured a major director/star combo (Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington) in a story involving a plane crash and its subsequent investigation. Ift opened to $25 million, with a $97 million ultimate domestic haul.
Unusual for an Eastwood film, which are always technically top-notch but traditionally crafted, is the emphasis on IMAX camerawork and presentation. With the premium cost for these shows, it remains to be seen how important this is for ticket buyers.
It’s an important film for Tom Hanks. His last seven films have been a mixed bag, with “Captain Phillips” a success (and the only $100 million+ domestic grosser), “Bridge of Spies” and “Saving Mr. Banks” breakeven or a bit more, and four others grossing under $40 million. Things bottomed out with “A Hologram for the King,” which didn’t even break $5 million earlier this year.
“When the Bough Breaks” (Sony) is expected to place second. It’s the same formula as last year’s “The Perfect Guy”: a thriller starring Morris Chestnut, set in the upper middle class African-American milieu. Regina Hall also stars in this story about a childless couple and their troubles when they bring a surrogate mother into their lives. At a thrifty $10 million budget, this could be another sleeper success for Sony’s Screen Gems unit, while their “Don’t Breathe” heads toward $100 million.
Expected to open under $10 million are “The Wild Life” (Lionsgate) and “The Disappointments Room” (Focus). “Wild” is the first of at least five wide-release animated films for the rest of the year. Another talking animals cartoon feature, this one riffs on the Robinson Crusoe story by providing the castaway with companions. It’s a Belgian/French production, and not expected to remotely perform at the same level as top studio or high-end independent productions (such as Laika with their current “Kubo and the Two Strings”).
A release for “The Disappointments Room” is a victory in itself. The first Relativity production to be distributed post-bankruptcy, it stars Kate Beckinsale and is directed by D.J. Caruso, whose biggest successes have come from thrillers and horror films (“Eagle Eye”). This, like “When the Bough Breaks,” is the story of a young family in peril at home; with that competition, and with “Don’t Breathe” still strong, it has limited hopes for much of a gross.
Among several positively reviewed new specialized releases, the standout is “Author – The J.T. Leroy Story.” A documentary about the search for the true identity of a literary sensation, it premiered at Sundance. Amazon Films distributes through a partnership with Magnolia Pictures. Initial dates are at four top New York and Los Angeles theaters.