“15:17 to Paris” is the 36th film in Clint Eastwood’s long career as a director, one that has been filled with highs and lows at the box office. His 2014 Oscar-nominated film “American Sniper” was the peak, becoming the highest grossing domestic release of 2014 with $350 million; but his newest film, “15:17 to Paris,” is looking more like a valley.
While an opening of $12.6 million is in the range of what trackers expected, it’s still somewhat low considering the film had a production budget of $30 million. Its start is similar to that of Eastwood’s 2014 film “Jersey Boys,” which opened to $13.3 million against a $40 million budget and finished with a domestic total of $47 million and a global total of $67 million.
Since then, Eastwood has found box office success with “Sniper” and his 2016 heroism biopic, “Sully,” which made $240 million worldwide against a $60 million budget. Both films were able to find both critical and mainstream success with their blend of action pieces and its “man-behind-the-hero” approach to exploring the lives of Army sniper Chris Kyle and airline pilot Charles “Sully” Sullenberger.
But while those films had Bradley Cooper and Tom Hanks in the lead roles, Eastwood took a creative risk with “15:17 to Paris” and had the real-life subjects — Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos — star as themselves in his retelling of how they stopped a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris in 2015. Without a recognizable star to promote in trailers and ads, the film was less likely to gain interest outside of Eastwood’s most devout fans.
But Jeff Goldstein, President of Distribution at Warner Bros., thinks that there’s enough of those hardcore Eastwood followers to give the film a solid turnout in the coming weeks. Though “Black Panther” will dominate the box office conversation starting next week, he sees “15:17” as counter-programming for older audiences who aren’t interested in going to a Marvel movie. Opening night demographics for the film showed that 57 percent of moviegoers were age 50 or over.
“We had a really big footprint with ’15:17’ in southern communities and military towns, where there was a lot of interest in seeing the story of these American heroes,” said Goldstein. “And for a certain generation, Eastwood is a big name in movies and they’ll always see his films. We expect a really good performance from this film in these regions in later weeks, and it should give us a good result.”
If the box office total for “15:17 to Paris” winds up at three times the size of its opening, that will put it in the neighborhood of past Eastwood films like the Leonardo DiCaprio FBI biopic “J. Edgar,” which made $37.1 million in 2013, and the South African rugby sports film “Invictus,” which made $37.3 million during the holiday season in 2009 as counter-programming against “Avatar.”