Eastwood, 'Trouble With The Curve' Do Middling Business

Clint Eastwood. Amy Adams. Time-tested clichés. Sentimental music.

Did we mention Clint Eastwood? The last time he starred in a movie -- playing a crusty senior citizen with a big heart, deep down inside there somewhere -- Gran Torino made big money at the box office. Which led to some speculation that his latest vehicle, Trouble with the Curve -- in which he plays, not coincidentally, a crusty senior citizen with a big heart, deep down inside there somewhere -- would enjoy similar commercial success.

Trouble opened last Friday, but to this point the commercial success hasn't been there. From Box Office Mojo's report on the weekend's domestic receipts:

Trouble with the Curve debuted to an estimated $12.7 million from 3,212 locations, which was good for third place (though one ancillary source has it in first place, which could be where it ends up when actuals report on Monday afternoon). That's way behind Moneyball's $19.5 million opening last September, though it does at least rank sixth all-time for baseball movies. Compared to recent Clint Eastwood movies, Trouble's debut was less than half of Gran Torino's nationwide expansion ($29.5 million), but up slightly on recent directorial efforts J. Edgar ($11.2 million) and Hereafter ($12 million). The movie received a "B+" CinemaScore, which suggests neutral word-of-mouth that won't help or hurt in the long run.

One could view Trouble with the Curve's middling performance as an indictment of Clint Eastwood's brand following his bizarre chair-talking performance at the Republican National Convention last month. Instead, it's best to view this as a failure of the baseball movie genre, which has an incredibly low ceiling (the top debut ever belongs to The Benchwarmers with $19.7 million). Baseball fans spend 162 days a year (or more) following their favorite team, and so there needs to be something special for them to devote that extra time and money to a baseball movie. Also, thanks to the addition of an extra Wild Card spot in each league, late September is more competitive than ever in Major League Baseball this year, which may have kept more fans at home.

Just a guess: The guy who wrote this was just fishing. It's utterly preposterous to suggest that an extra team or two in the Wild Card races would have a measurable impact on a film's box-office performance. It's also preposterous to suggest that Eastwood's bizarre performance at the R.N.C. dissuaded his fans from showing up for a movie. Isn't it?

I don't know from CinemaScore, but I'm guessing what really hurt Trouble with the Curve was the tepid reviews. Where Moneyball was almost universally lauded by the critics, Trouble splatted with the critics, earning just a 52-percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, and Grant Brisbee didn't like it much.

No, reviews don't matter much for dreck like Twilight and The Expendables. But those movies are targeted toward people who can barely speak in complete sentences, let alone read. Trouble with the Curve was aimed at adults, and adults do pay attention to reviews. Gran Torino, while hardly a heavyweight film, did score well with the critics, and so Eastwood's fans showed up at the theaters.

They probably would have showed up to see Trouble with the Curve, too, if it were a better movie.

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