'Jack Ryan' Franchise in Question After Snub From Younger Moviegoers

Chris Pine and Kevin Costner in 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'
Chris Pine and Kevin Costner in 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'
 David Lee / Paramount Pictures

The fate of Paramount's marquee spy franchise has been thrown into question following the soft debut of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the North American box office, where the action thriller failed to connect with younger audiences unfamiliar with author Tom Clancy's iconic character.

Director Kenneth Branagh's reboot, starring 33-year-old actor Chris Pine and in a bid to relaunch the series, opened to a soft $18 million over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. More than a third of the audience was over the age of 50, while only 15 percent was under 25, according to exit-polling service CinemaScore. All told, 63 percent of the audience was over the age of 35.

Movies fueled largely by older adults can certainly transform into box office hits -- consider Gravity or Taken, although they feature older actors in the lead roles -- but the Jack Ryan franchise has always been an all-audience play. And by casting Pine, the studio hoped to ignite interest among the younger set.

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Whether the studio and co-financing partner Skydance Productions decide to pursue another installment now largely rests on Jack Ryan's performance overseas, where it is off to a solid start, as well as its ability to drum up continued interest among older adults in the U.S., sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Adds Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore: "The affection for the franchise was definitely 50-plus. The young audience didn't turn out for the opening weekend. The question now becomes, does a younger audience now discover it, whether in theaters or on home entertainment?"

Last year, Paramount's Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters topped out at a disappointing $55.7 million domestically, but earned $170 million internationally for a global total of $225.7 million, enough to pursue a sequel. In North America, Jack Ryan may only hit Hansel and Gretel numbers unless it has strong legs. Sunday's football championships didn't help the film, as older males were its core audience.

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Jack Ryan, rolling out in its first 29 foreign territories this weekend, grossed a solid $22.2 million, led by China with $9.5 million. It earned $2 million in Russia -- where much of the storyline is set -- and $2 million in Australia. Overall, it opened on par with fellow Paramount pic Jack Reacher and ahead of Unstoppable, featuring Pine opposite Denzel Washington. Reacher, starring Tom Cruise, earned $138.3 million overseas, while Unstoppable took in $86.2 million.

The $60 million action thriller hit theaters more than a decade after the last film in the franchise, The Sum of All Fears, played in theaters and more than two decades after The Hunt for Red October launched the film series. Starring Ben Affleck (Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford took previous turns as Jack Ryan), Sum of All Fears opened to $31.2 million.

Jack Ryan also stars Keira Knightley, Branagh and Kevin Costner. Costner was featured prominently in marketing materials and, just as the movie opened Friday, the AARP gave its first "Movies for Grown-ups" seal to the film, pointing to performances by Branagh, 53, and Costner, 59.

The movie was originally set to open Dec. 25, but its release was pushed back to allow room for fellow Paramount release The Wolf of Wall Street. Rivals believe Jack Ryan would have fared worse had it kept that date, considering the crowded Christmas calendar, particularly for adult dramas.

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