Sully, the first major film release of the fall, is also looking like the season's first major hit.
Starring Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who famously landed a commercial airliner in New York's Hudson River after a flock of geese struck the plane and caused both engines to fail, the Clint Eastwood-directed film made $1.35 million in Thursday night previews at 2,900 locations, putting it on track for an opening weekend gross in the low $30 million range. As Variety notes, that's several million more than analysts had predicted.
Sully was made for $60 million, so in order to reach profitability, it will likely need to gross well north of $100 million. Hanks' last few films – last year's Bridge of Spies and 2013's Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips – all demonstrated excellent legs, so if Sully can continue in that tradition it should easily top out in that range. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of subject matter that holds a whole lot of appeal to international audiences, so despite Hanks's starpower, it's not likely to tack on much to its North American total overseas.
Critically, the film has been well-received, with an 83% “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 76/100 on Metacritic. No doubt, the studio is already mounting an awards season campaign for this one.
Other wide releases this weekend are the thriller When the Bough Breaks starring Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut, horror film The Disappointments Room and The Wild Life, a new animated family film that you've probably never heard of.