Never underestimate the box-office appeal of Tom Hanks saving the day.
Clint Eastwood's heroic biopic Sully, with Hanks as the real-life airline pilot who pulled off the "Miracle on the Hudson," flew past the competition to finish No. 1 with $35.5 million in its opening weekend, according to studio estimates from comScore. Also starring Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney, the drama connected with critics (who collectively gave it an 83% "fresh" rating at review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes) and especially audiences (a grade of A on CinemaScore).
Sully's weekend haul marks the fifth-best September opening of all time and Eastwood's top debut as a director.
"This is what the fall is all about — Oscar contenders, stories with some depth and gravitas — and Hanks and Eastwood delivered that," says comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
According to comScore audience survey results, 82% of Sully moviegoers were older than 25, and 39% said Hanks was their primary reason for seeing it — a testament to the goodwill on and off screen for the actor. "If Tom Hanks ran for president, he’d win," Dergarabedian says. "He has developed such a reputation, consistently doing great work and instilling in the audience a really warm feeling."
Domestic thriller When the Bough Breaks, starring Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut, made its debut at No. 2 with $15 million. It was pummeled by critics (0% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) but scored decently with moviegoers (B at CinemaScore).
As counterprogramming to the "highbrow" Sully, the mystery Bough is "an example of a guilty pleasure not chasing Oscar," says Dergarabedian, adding that like The Perfect Guy, which topped the box office a year ago, it's another successful early fall mashup of romance, horror and suspense with a predominantly African-American cast. "These films never get critical acclaim, but they don’t need it. They’re looking for dollars and they get them."
After two weeks at No. 1, horror film Don't Breathe fell to third place with $8.2 million. Supervillain blockbuster Suicide Squad made $5.7 million — good enough for fourth and bringing it to $307.4 million to date domestically — and The Wild Life rounded out the top five. The new animated film snagged $3.4 million, despite scathing reviews (15% approval on Rotten Tomatoes).
Another newcomer, the Kate Beckinsale horror movie The Disappointments Room, completely bombed with $1.4 million — the fright fest wasn't helped by a goose egg on Rotten Tomatoes or a dreaded D at CinemaScore. "This is a movie that really couldn’t get a leg up on any front," Dergarabedian says. "It’s definitely a disappointment, no question."
Final figures are expected Monday.