Box Office: Why 'Into the Storm' Might Hit Hardest in Tornado Alley

Into the Storm Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Into the Storm Still - H 2014

The New Line and Warner Bros. disaster movie opens Friday.

The family-owned Moore Warren Theatre in Moore, Okla. — the site of numerous deadly twisters in recent years — was heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through the midsize city on May 20, 2013, killing 24 people and causing millions of dollars in damage.

The theater nevertheless became an impromptu shelter for some 300 people seeking refuge. A year later, the Warren will be among hundreds of cinemas throughout Tornado Alley carrying Into the Storm, the first movie since 1996's Twister to feature one of Mother Nature's most violent displays of force as its star. The New Line and Warner Bros. title opens Friday.

It may be a little-known fact, but Twister over-indexed in Tornado Alley, a vast area stretching from Texas to Canada, and from Colorado to western Pennsylvania. 

Remembering how well Twister did, many Midwestern theater chains expect a bump for Into the Stormdirected by Steven Quale and starring Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies. "Especially in Oklahoma and southern Missouri, it should be really strong," says Brock Bagby, director of programming at Kansas-based theater chain B&B Theatres, which has locations throughout the Midwest.

"I don't know if it's coping or it's just more interesting because it affects them," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "In L.A., you’ve never seen a tornado." An executive at one of the country’s largest chains agrees. "I haven’t heard any complaints," he says.

Still, Bill Warren, founder and president of the Kansas-based Warren Theatres, has mixed feelings about Into the Storm even though his chain is carrying it.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the [film's] grosses in all theaters in Oklahoma are down, just because of the sensitivity of the subject in the state," he said. "It's kind of a no-win thing — if we don't show it, people will be upset. If we do show it, people may [be upset]. We are going to show it, it's a major release. Would my preference be for that movie to come out a year from now? I'd say yes."

Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman confirms that the studio's Twister over-performed in Tornado Alley.

"I think movies rise to the occasion and people realize that they aren't real. If they are interested, they will go see it," he says. "You have television shows about storm chasers that do well all over the country, including in regions that may be more affected."

Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.