Weekend Box Office: Tom Hanks' 'Sully' Flies to Stellar $35.5M Debut
Elsewhere, surrogate thriller 'When the Bough Breaks' bows in second place with $15 million; 'The Disappointments Room,' Relativity's first release post-Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is DOA.
Clint Eastwood's Sully launched over the weekend to a heroic $35.5 million from 3,525 theaters at the North American box office for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures, the top takeoff ever for an adult drama opening in September.
Sully, which also boasted the top debut for the first weekend following Labor Day, is Eastwood's second-best nationwide start behind American Sniper, which opened to a stunning $107.2 million over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend in 2014, not accounting for inflation.
It's also a recent best for Tom Hanks, who stars as Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, the real-life pilot who crash-landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River. Similar to films directed by Eastwood, Hanks' dramas don't generally sport huge openings but can have strong legs. In October 2015, Bridge of Spies, helmed by Steven Spielberg and starring Hanks, opened to $15.4 million on its way to becoming a solid performer. In October 2013, Hanks' Captain Phillips opened to $25.7 million.
"We're so proud of Clint Eastwood and the performances in this movie," said Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. He added the studio debated whether to open Sully on the same weekend as the 15th anniversary of 9/11. "We spent a lot of time talking about, and decided this is a real story of hope."
Overseas, Sully took off to $9.5 million from its first 39 markets for a worldwide start of $45 million. It did best in English-speaking Australia ($2.3 million).
Nabbing an A CinemaScore, the biographical drama skewed female (56 percent) in North America, while 80 percent of the audience was over the age of 35. (Despite the older crowd, Sully earned an impressive $4 million in 375 Imax locations.)
The pic recounts the tale of US Airways Flight 1549, otherwise known as the "Miracle on the Hudson." The plane, piloted by Sullenberger (Hanks) and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), was met with disaster minutes after taking off from New York City's LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15, 2009, when a flock of Canadian geese disabled both engines. With no other option, Sully was forced to make a water landing on the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew survived, with Sully becoming an instant hero.
Sony/Screen Gems' surrogate thriller When the Bough Breaks, starring Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall, opened in second place with $15 million from 2,246 theaters. While that's a solid start, it didn't match Screen Gems' The Perfect Guy, also starring Chestnut, which debuted to $25.9 million on the same weekend a year ago.
The film — the story of a childless couple who become caught in a deadly game after hiring a surrogate — introduces Jaz Sinclair and also stars Romany Malco, Michael K. Williams and Theo Rossi.
"It's a good start for a very low-risk movie that cost $10 million to make," said Sony worldwide president of marketing and distribution Josh Greenstein, adding that the pic, which earned a B CinemaScore, was fueled by older females.
Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films' Don't Breathe stayed high on the chart in its third weekend, coming in No. 3 with an estimated $8.2 million for a domestic total of $66.8 million.
Warners' Suicide Squad placed No. 4 in its sixth weekend with $5.7 million for a North American cume of $307.4 million.
The Wild Life, a Belgium-France animated film, rounded out the top five with a muted $3.3 million opening. Lionsgate is distributing the movie — loosely based on Robinson Crusoe, but told from the point of view of the island's animals — in the U.S. It was released in March in Belgium and in April in France.
Also debuting over the weekend, albeit in fewer theaters, or roughly 1,554 locations, was The Disappointments Room, the first title released by Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The horror film, directed by D.J. Caruso and starring Kate Beckinsale and Lucas Till, bombed with $1.4 million after receiving a D grade from audiences. (D and F CinemaScores are rare.)
And while Sully is striking a chord with older consumers, two other adult dramas continued to struggle. The Light Between Oceans, starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, tumbled 62 percent in its second weekend to $1.8 million for a $9.4 million cume. And the Robert De Niro boxing pic Hands of Stone took in just $170,000 from 1,103 theaters in its third weekend for a domestic total of $4.5 million.