Clint Eastwood vehicle Gran Torino charged the weekend box office with $29.5 million in its nationwide expansion, while comedy Bride Wars and horror The Unborn debuted solidly. On the strength of those pictures, overall business was up nearly 13 percent over the same weekend last year as well as on the high end for January in general.
Playing on approximately 3,200 screens at 2,808 theaters, Gran Torino scored the highest-grossing nationwide launch of Eastwood's career as an actor or director, shooting past his previous high, Space Cowboys at $18.1 million. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, the action drama's start slots in second behind Every Which Way But Loose, which is also Eastwood's most attended movie overall, and was around ten percent bigger than In the Line of Fire and Unforgiven. Aside from a few hiccups, Eastwood has been among the few consistently bankable actors over the years, and the marketing for Gran Torino cashed in on his tough guy persona, recalling Dirty Harry with its vigilante storyline. It was the type of picture audiences wanted to see Eastwood in after years of waiting.
Gran Torino's success was portended by its stellar performance in limited release. It was the standout over the past four weeks, earning $11 million with escalating per theater averages and significantly out-pacing Eastwood's last acting vehicle, Million Dollar Baby, which also had a December platform release back in 2004. Distributor Warner Bros. had a hit targeting older audiences on this weekend last year when The Bucket List played to the strengths of its stars (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman). With $40.5 million grossed since its Dec. 12 opening, Gran Torino has already topped Eastwood's last three directorial efforts: Changeling, Letters to Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers.
Bride Wars barged in with $21.1 million on around 3,800 screens at 3,226 locations. Billed as a battle between Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, two actresses who have appeared in several successful female-skewing movies in recent years, the comedy's debut was in the upper mid-range among major wedding-themed movies in terms of attendance, coming in a bit below 27 Dresses from last year. Weddings are perennially appealing, and Bride Wars bluntly tapped in to that appeal with its title and advertising. Though it lacked consequential male leads, a key ingredient in putting these pictures over the top, ads did try to capture the spirit of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, including a poster with the leads leaning back-to-back like Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. According to distributor 20th Century Fox's exit polling, 80 percent of the audience was female and 52 percent was under 25 years old.
Creeping in as the first horror movie in over two months, The Unborn emerged with $19.8 million on approximately 2,500 screens at 2,357 sites. Attendance was a vast improvement over last winter's horror offerings, One Missed Call and The Eye. Distributor Universal Pictures' research showed that 55 percent of the audience was female and 75 percent was under 25 years old. Universal also found that the movie's top ethnicity was Hispanic, comprising 42 percent of the audience, followed by Caucasians (26 percent), the ethnicity that's usually the highest percentage.
Also opening nationwide, Not Easily Broken drew $5.3 million on around 780 screens at 724 theaters. The drama was marketed in a similar vein as the Tyler Perry movies, and distributor Sony Pictures reported a production budget of just $5 million. Sony's exit polling indicated that 70 percent of the audience was female and 69 percent was over 30 years old.