‘Sully’ box office: Clint Eastwood’s biggest opening weekend ever launches Oscar campaign

Sully” opened on Friday, September 9, and over the weekend it earned $35.5 million dollars at the domestic box office. That’s Clint Eastwood‘s biggest ever opening weekend as a director, even after you adjust for inflation. It’s also Eastwood’s widest opening, debuting in 3,525 theaters.

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The film tells the true story of airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), the man at the center of the event known as “Miracle on the Hudson.” In January 2009 Sullenberger successfully executed an emergency water landing on the Hudson River after his US Airways flight was struck by birds and experienced engine failure at a low altitude. All 155 passengers and crew members on-board survived.

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“Sully” follows another major box office windfall for Eastwood: “American Sniper.” That film, also a fact-based drama, opened in limited release in late 2014 before going wide and becoming an unexpected blockbuster, taking in $350 million domestically and $547 million worldwide. That is by far the biggest moneymaker in Eastwood’s career.

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“Sniper” was also an Oscar hit, earning six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), though its only win was for Best Sound Editing. That would be the highlight of most directors’ careers, but not Eastwood, who has won four Oscars: Best Picture and Best Director for “Unforgiven” (1992), and Best Picture and Best Director again for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004). Those films were 12 years apart, and now it’s been 12 years since his “Million Dollar” victory, so perhaps Eastwood is due to return to the Oscar winner’s circle.

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