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Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ Draws An Aging Audience to Theaters

An unusual 89 percent of the audience was over the age of 25 –and 43 percent was over 50

“Bridge of Spies,” the Steven Spielberg-directed Cold War saga starring Tom Hanks, got off to a solid $15 million start this weekend – but it drew an aging crowd.

An unusual 89 percent of the audience was over the age of 25 –and 43 percent was over the age of 50. For comparison’s sake, on a typical superhero movie more than half of the crowd is generally under 25. The movie came in third at $15 million, after “Goosebumps” and “The Martian.”

“Introduce me to one teen-ager who knows who Francis Gary Powers is, and I’ll give you a million bucks,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior analyst told TheWrap, referring to the U2 pilot played by Hanks in a spy exchange with the Soviets. Before you college history majors storm the Rentrak gates, he was only making a point — adult material draws adult crowds.

To put it in perspective “Jurassic World,” which Spielberg executive produced, drew a crowd that was 60 percent over 25 and there were plenty of fans of the first, 1993 “Jurassic” movie there.

Appealing to an older audience can work for the DreamWorks movie, distributed by Disney. Spielberg – who once delighted children with the likes of “ET” –  has lately steered away from youngsters with serious, historical stories including “War Horse” and “Lincoln,” both of which drew mainly mature crowds. And the audience for “Captain Phillips,” which starred Hanks, was nearly as old, with 88 percent over 25. It went on to a Best Picture nomination and $107 million domestic grosses and $218 million worldwide for Sony in 2013.

A mature-skewing film requires a different marketing strategy than youth-targeting films, which aim for a big opening, and hope positive buzz enables them to build and draw older crowds. With a movie that targets an older crowd, the opening isn’t as important, but reviews matter a lot.

“Bridge of Spies” is in good shape there. The reviews are strong (93 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and it received an “A” CinemaScore, a sign of positive audience reaction.

“I don’t think I’ll bet against Spielberg and Hanks finding their audiences, even if it does take awhile,” Dergarabedian said.