Eastwood’s films have historically attracted older moviegoers from red states, but his core audience might take the streaming option this time
One of the big questions heading into the fall box office is whether it will lead to increased turnout of older moviegoers who have mostly skipped theaters due to COVID concerns and a lack of interest in summer blockbusters. In normal times, Clint Eastwood’s newest film “Cry Macho” would be a surefire pick to lure back that demographic, but the film’s simultaneous release on HBO Max complicates things.
Eastwood’s last film, “The Mule,” opened to $17.5 million two years ago and legged out remarkably well for a domestic theatrical run of $103.8 million. Those legs were thanks in major part to audiences over the age of 50, as “The Mule” became the film of choice for seniors who mostly shunned 2019’s end-of-year blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
But with “Cry Macho,” Warner Bros. is expecting a lower opening weekend, with projections sitting between $5 million and $10 million. Reviews have been mixed, with 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. But for Eastwood’s loyal fans, critical pans should do little to diminish interest in seeing another film starring the 91-year-old cinematic legend (who also directs). The question is whether those older devotees who have seen Eastwood’s films for decades will opt to watch “Cry Macho” on streaming instead of seeing it in theaters (even if later in the run as they did with “The Mule”).
“This is yet another test of the hybrid model with its own twist,” Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “While the theatrical model is generally better for bigger blockbusters, ‘Cry Macho’ could get a serious boost from HBO Max given that the audience it is aiming for is still showing reluctance in showing up to theaters.”
Warner Bros. has said that so far this year, the theatrical performance of its films has run in tandem with the performance on HBO Max. If a film does good box office, it also pulls in good viewership numbers on streaming. That would mean that an opening closer to $10 million, while diminished compared to “The Mule,” could lead to strong word of mouth that may lead older audiences to discover the film, even if they choose to watch at home.
But even within the 50-plus demo, there are nuances when it comes to Eastwood. Whether he’s starred in his films or simply directed them, Eastwood’s films have overindexed in conservative-leaning red states. Eastwood’s popularity in Republican circles was a factor that drove “American Sniper” to become the highest grossing film of 2014, with eight of the top 10 markets for the film’s wide opening weekend coming from the South and Midwest.