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Invictus 2009 Box Office: Clint Eastwood’s Sports Drama Fails to Score

Invictus Matt Damon rugby player Francois PienaarInvictus with Matt Damon as Springboks rugby team captain Francois Pienaar. Despite generally favorable reviews, Clint Eastwood’s South African-set sports/political drama has turned out to be a box office flop.
  • Unlike John Lee Hancock’s “inspirational” sports drama The Blind Side, which is on its way to becoming Sandra Bullock’s biggest box office hit ever, Clint Eastwood’s “inspirational” sports drama Invictus has failed to inspire domestic moviegoers.

Invictus 2009 box office: Clint Eastwood’s ‘inspirational’ South African-set sports & politics drama has dispiriting debut

Dec. 11–13 weekend box office (cont.): The Sandra Bullock star vehicle The Blind Side was the big box office story this past weekend, but let’s not forget Clint Eastwood’s anything-but-unbeatable Invictus, which opened behind both The Princess and the Frog and The Blind Side, collecting a mere $8.6 million from 2,125 venues according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

Adapted by Anthony Peckham from John Carlin’s 2008 book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, Eastwood’s $60 million “inspirational” mix of sports, politics, and Hollywood prestige and sentimentality is set during South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup, held the year after former political prisoner Nelson Mandela was elected president.

So, will the local underdog, the Springboks, manage to take home the World Cup’s cup and thus unite black and white South Africans for all eternity?

The answer is … Have you ever sat through a crowd-pleasing Hollywood flick?

One ‘inspirational’ movie too many

Starring Matt Damon as Springboks captain Francois Pienaar and National Board of Review Best Actor co-winner* Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, the generally well-regarded Invictus is a likely Academy Award nominee in several categories. That should help to lift its commercial prospects somewhat early next year.

Even so, Invictus has absolutely no chance of reaching the box office heights of that other “inspirational” sports drama, The Blind Side. As a matter of fact, unless it receives lots and lots of love from the Academy, Eastwood’s movie will be lucky if it manages to end its run with a domestic gross matching the $34.2 million The Blind Side earned on its first weekend out.

Perhaps there’s room for only one uplifting sports-themed movie per season. Or could it just be that Invictus lacks a family dinner table prayer sequence?

Also in the Invictus cast: Patrick Mofokeng, Julian Lewis Jones, Leleti Khumalo, Adjoa Andoh, and Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood.

* Morgan Freeman shared the National Board of Review’s Best Actor award with George Clooney for Jason Reitman’s socially conscious Up in the Air, which this past weekend raked in $2.4 million (at no. 11) from 72 theaters, averaging an impressive $33,254 per site.

Box office money-loser, but international moviegoers helped some

Update: Clint Eastwood’s Invictus ended its domestic run with $37.5 million – or $3.3 million more than The Blind Side collected on its first weekend out.

Internationally, the sports drama delivered a better performance: $84.9 million, for a worldwide total of $122.4 million. In all, a disappointing figure for a $60 million production.

Invictus’ top international markets were France (with an impressive $26.6 million), Spain ($10.3 million), Italy ($9.1 million), Japan ($8.6 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($6.9 million), and Australia ($6.4 million).

In South Africa, where locals had to watch Americans playing the two lead characters, Invictus scored a passable $1.4 million.


Invictus 2009 Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “Invictus 2009 Box Office: Clint Eastwood’s Sports Drama Fails to Score” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).

Comments about Invictus and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Matt Damon Invictus 2009 movie image: Keith Bernstein | Warner Bros.

Invictus 2009 Box Office: Clint Eastwood’s Sports Drama Fails to Score” last updated in October 2022.

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