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Tom Hanks Captain Phillips: One of Actor’s Best Openings This Century

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Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips weekend box office: One of actor’s biggest domestic openings in the past decade

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Oct. 13 update: Starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the title role – though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the film’s poster – Paul Greengrass’ inspired-by-real-life-events Captain Phillips grossed an estimated $8.5 million from 3,020 venues on Friday, Oct. 11, including $600,000 from Thursday night showings, according to studio estimates found at Captain Phillips chronicles the adventures of the titular captain of an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

Budgeted at $55 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses – Captain Phillips should collect anywhere between $23-25 million by Sunday evening. A major Saturday surge and a strong Sunday hold could lead to even higher results, but for now that’s mere speculation. Either way, Captain Phillips has absolutely no chance of topping this weekend’s domestic box office chart, as the no. 1 spot belongs to holdover Gravity. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity is expected to bring in around $40-$45 million.

Official studio estimates will be released on Sunday. Weekend box office actuals come out on Monday.

Tom Hanks’ first solid domestic box office opening since ‘Angels & Demons’

Now, at least partly due to the presence of Tom Hanks – unseen in the poster, but frequently seen in the film’s promo circuit – Captain Phillips will undoubtedly enjoy a stronger domestic opening than Ben Affleck’s Argo, which debuted around this time last year with $19.45 million. The Best Picture Academy Award winner earlier this year, Argo ultimately raked in $136.02 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to a more modest but still impressive $96.3 million internationally.

Also worth noting is that a year ago Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, had one of the worst debuts of any Tom Hanks movie since the beginning of his film career in the early ’80s: $9.61 million from 2,008 theaters. One had to go back all the way to the widely panned 1990 drama The Bonfire of the Vanities, co-starring Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis, to find a weaker Tom Hanks opening-weekend performer (in wide release).

Needless to say, in terms of box office Captain Phillips is going to be a vast improvement over Cloud Atlas, at least in North America. In fact, Captain Phillips is about to mark Tom Hanks’ best domestic opening – of course, not including Lee Unkrich’s animated Toy Story 3 – since the Ron Howard-directed Angels & Demons in 2009. The sequel to The Da Vinci Code debuted with $46.2 million.

Even after factoring in inflation, in the last decade only three Tom Hanks movies – featuring Hanks himself, as opposed to just his voice (Toy Story 3) or a digitalized image (Robert ZemeckisThe Polar Express) – have opened with more than $25 million (the inflation-adjusted figures below are approximations):

  • The aforementioned Angels & Demons (2009) with $50 million.
  • Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code (2006), co-starring Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen, with $96 million.
  • Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal (2004), co-starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, with $25 million.

Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Ladykillers, starring Hanks in the old Alec Guinness role; Mike Nichols2008 political comedy-drama Charlie Wilson’s War, co-starring Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman; Larry Crowne, also with Julia Roberts; Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, with Sandra Bullock; and Cloud Atlas were all either box office disappointments or downright box office disasters in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, barring a disaster of some sort, after two weekends Captain Phillips will surely far surpass the total domestic take of each of Tom Hanks’ last three movies (Larry Crowne, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Cloud Atlas).

Tom Hanks 1992–2002: Two Best Actor Oscars and great box office grosses

Tom Hanks had a great run from 1992-2002, including Best Actor Oscar wins for Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia (1993) and Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994). Beginning with Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own (1992), co-starring Geena Davis and Madonna, and ending with Sam MendesRoad to Perdition, co-starring Paul Newman, and Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Hanks had one major box office hit after another.

Adjusted for inflation, during that period only one Tom Hanks star vehicle failed to reach the $150 million mark in North America: the aforementioned Road to Perdition, with $146 million. (The Tom Hanks-directed That Thing You Do was a highly personal, low-budget effort; Hanks is part of a mostly little-known – back in 1996 – ensemble cast.)

Tom Hanks toplines ‘Captain Phillips’ cast

Besides Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips features Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, David Warshofsky, Faysal Ahmed, Michael Chernus, Max Martini, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Omar Berdouni, Yul Vazquez, and Marc Anwar. Billy Ray, among whose screenwriting credits are The Hunger Games, Breach, and State of Play, adapted Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty’s book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea.

Tom Hanks Captain Phillips photo: Sony Pictures.

Oct. 12

Captain Phillips Tom Hanks
Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks

Captain Phillips box office: Somali pirates movie likely to trail ‘Gravity’ by a wide margin

Starring Tom Hanks in the title role, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips grossed an estimated $600,000 from showings on Thursday night, Oct. 10. The film follows the titular real-life captain of an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 – reportedly the first such hijacking in two centuries.

Seven years ago, Paul Greengrass came up with another film inspired by real-life events pitting heroic Americans vs. Muslim evildoers: the well-received domestic box office disappointment United 93, about the one September 11, 2001, flight in which the passengers rebelled against the Muslim terrorists. Distributor Sony Pictures is obviously expecting much better business for the less traumatic movie-fied events found in the $55 million-budgeted Captain Phillips, which, even factoring in inflation, has a price tag more than three times higher than that of United 93.

In fact, at least in part thanks to the presence of Tom Hanks – there’s Oscar buzz in the air – Captain Phillips is expected to gross around $20-25 million from 3,020 locations by Sunday evening. If it opens at the lower end of expectations, that would put Captain Phillips on a par with Ben Affleck’s eventual Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo. The fictionalized, Warner Bros.-distributed version of the American rescue of a group of hostages from Muslim Iran opened with $19.45 million at this time last year, ultimately pulling in $136.02 million in North America, in addition to a more modest but still impressive (undoubtedly a result of all the Oscar buzz) $96.3 million internationally according to Box Office Mojo.

‘Captain Phillips’ vs. ‘Gravity’: Battle for adult moviegoers’ hard-earned dollars

Captain Phillips could theoretically reach $25 million or even higher, but unlike Lee DanielsThe Butler, which had the “prestige” adult field to itself when it opened with a bigger-than-expected $24.63 million in mid-August, the Paul Greengrass / Tom Hanks collaboration has to contend with Alfonso Cuarón’s space-set actioner Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the widely acclaimed astronaut drama is expected to bring in between $35-$40 million this weekend.

I should add that United 93 opened with $11.47 million (or about $14 million today), while another high-profile Paul Greengrass movie pitting Americans vs. Muslims, Universal’s $100 million-budgeted Iraq-set Green Zone, debuted with only $14.3 million in 2010. One of the biggest flops of the year, Green Zone cumed at $35.05 million in the U.S. and Canada and $94.88 million worldwide. Starring Matt Damon, the film was greeted by mixed reviews; Captain Phillips currently has a 89 percent approval rating and 8.9/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.

Captain Phillips cast

Besides Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips features Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Michael Chernus, Catherine Keener, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, Omar Berdouni, Max Martini, and Marc Anwar. Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Breach, State of Play) adapted Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty’s book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea.

Update: Even though Tom Hanks was a shoo-in Best Actor nominee for Captain Phillips, he ultimately failed to be shortlisted despite the film’s popularity with the various Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences branches, as indicated by its total of six nominations.

The Best Actor winner that year was Matthew McConaughey for another AIDS drama, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club. The other nominees were:

Tom Hanks Captain Phillips image: Sony Pictures.

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