By Ryan Parsons | Image property of 20th Century Fox, Variety
Did anybody see this coming? I ran out to see Gran Torino this weekend and found myself sitting in a theater only a quarter full. I figured it was to be expected, as the marketing of the film wasn't all that better than Seven Pounds. I was then surprised to receive a call from family who claimed not only was their theater at capacity, but there were already lines forming for other showings.
Riding on the fact that it was a Clint Eastwood movie, audiences still made it to the theaters for this low-budget film.
Gran Torino Speeds Off With Box Office Title
Gran Torino grossed an estimated $29 million from 2,808 during its opening bow this weekend. The numbers were not only strong enough to give the film the top spot, but Gran Torino has quickly become Eastwood's best nationwide opening of all time, both as an actor and director.
20th Century Fox, relying on one of their few remaining specialties, was able to beat out expectations with Bride Wars. Though the film was blasted by the critics, the comedy starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway still earned an impressive $21.5 million.
I guess we shouldn't be too surprised, however, as what looks to be 2009's worst film (to date), The Unborn, was able to come in third with $21.5 million. The only film I've seen more blasted by critics than this in the past few months was The Spirit.
Looking back at number one, it is hard not to be impressed with Gran Torino. After accumulating $11 million over a month during its limited release, the film found momentum as it blew up over the weekend.
"We knew Gran Torino had a very strong commercial component, but we wanted some breathing room, to build word of mouth and let critics know what the movie was about," said Warners prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman. "By pressing the button and going wide immediately, you can't take advantage of great reviews and word of mouth. It was a little bit of a risk, but it paid off."
Thanks to Gran Torino and the other top five, this weekend's box office was up 15% over the same frame last year.