Box Office: Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' Packs Powerful Holiday Punch

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
'The Mule'

The movie could clear $90 million in North America by the end of its run.

Move aside, Dirty Harry. Earl Stone is making Clint Eastwood's day.

Eastwood's new film, The Mule, packed a major punch at the holiday box office, earning a better-than-expected $61.1 million in its first three weekends of play at the U.S. box office. The film is holding at No. 5, no small feat considering the crowded holiday marquee. And it's besting newer studio offerings, such as the Sony comedy Holmes & Watson and the Dick Cheney pic Vice.

Older adults have turned out in force to see The Mule, both directed by and starring the prolific 88-year-old filmmaker.

The Mule has already surpassed the entire lifetime gross of the last film Eastwood starred in, Trouble With the Curve, which topped out at $35.8 million domestically in 2012, not adjusted for inflation. Box office experts expect The Mule to get to at least $90 million in North America, and possibly $100 million.

Two difference between the two movies: Eastwood didn't direct Trouble With the Curve. Also, he shared top billing with Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams in that film. In The Mule, he's the sole lead, playing the part of Earl Stone, a cantankerous, closed-minded senior citizen who becomes a drug runner for a Mexican cartel.

Eastwood's last sole leading role was in Gran Torino a decade ago in 2008 (he also directed). In that film, he also played a cantankerous senior citizen irked by a changing world. (By the end of both movies, the his characters soften and find redemption of sorts.)

Gran Torino earned $148 million domestically and $121.9 million internationally for a sizable global total of $270 million against a modest $33 million production budget.

The Mule, costing $50 million to make before marketing, won't begin rolling out overseas until January. Eastwood has an avid fan base in certain markets, such as France, where Gran Torino did its biggest business ($27.9 million).

Eastwood also directed the 2018 film The 15:17 to Paris, which topped out at a modest $36.3 million domestically and $57.1 million worldwide. His last turn as a director before that was Sully, the 2016 drama starring Tom Hanks as the real-life U.S. Airways pilot who landed his jet in the Hudson. Sully grossed $125 million domestically and $115.7 million overseas for a global total of $240.8 million.

American Sniper, released in late 2014, grossed a rousing $350.1 million domestically and $197.3 million overseas for a total $547.4 million, the top showing for Eastwood as a director, not adjusted for inflation.

Bradley Cooper, the star of American Sniper, has remained close to Eastwood in the intervening years and plays a smaller role in The Mule. Cooper also took over directing duties of A Star Is Born from Eastwood.