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When deciding where to land Clint Eastwood’s Sully on the 2016 release calendar, Warner Bros. execs began circling the first weekend after Labor Day, considering most adult fall dramas don’t begin opening until later in September or October (there’s nothing like having the skies to yourself).
But the movie, starring Tom Hanks as the pilot who landed a jet on the Hudson, also contains sequences where he imagines the plane crashing into Midtown buildings — and its Sept. 9 opening would coincide with the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
“We spent a lot of time thinking, ‘Would this hurt us?’ But we decided to go ahead because Sully is a story of hope and a real hero who did his job,” says Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. “So we said, ‘You know what, we’re not going to worry about it.'”
The studio made the right call: The anniversary certainly didn’t hurt the movie, which debuted to $35 million, one of Eastwood’s best starts ever, as well as marking a recent best for Hanks. “I don’t think the anniversary had a big impact one way or the other,” says Goldstein.
A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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