‘Mag­nif­i­cent Seven’ rides Den­zel’s star power

Movie pulls in $35 mil­lion in open­ing week­end

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Jake Coyle AP Film Writer

NEW YORK » Movie stars don’t open movies any­more? Tell that to Den­zel Wash­ing­ton and Tom Hanks.

The pair, once co-stars in “Philadel­phia,” have to­gether dom­i­nated the last three weeks of the box of­fice. Af­ter Clint East­wood’s Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son docu­d­rama “Sully,” star­ring Hanks as Cap­tain Ch­es­ley Sul­len­berger, topped ticket sales of the last two weeks, “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” rode Wash­ing­ton’s star power to an es­ti­mated $35 mil­lion de­but over the week­end, ac­cord­ing to stu­dio es­ti­mates Sun­day.

Though both Wash­ing­ton and Hanks are in their early 60s, their box-of­fice clout might be just as po­tent as ever. The de­but of “Sully” was Hanks’ fourth best open­ing of his ca­reer; the open­ing of “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven,” An­toine Fuqua’s re­make of John Sturges’ 1960 West­ern (it­self a re­make of Akira Kuro­sawa’s “Seven Sa­mu­rai”), is Wash­ing­ton’s third best.

Both films boasted other en­tice­ments. East­wood is him­self a draw. And the en­sem­ble of “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” most no­tably in­cludes Chris Pratt, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” star and a po­ten­tial heir ap­par­ent to Wash­ing­ton and Hanks.

But Wash­ing­ton and Hanks ranked as the over­whelm­ing rea­son au­di­ences went to see ei­ther movie, ac­cord­ing to comS­core’s sur­vey of movie­go­ers.

“They are the model of con­sis­tency and they are the model of qual­ity,” said Paul Der­garabe­dian, se­nior me­dia an­a­lyst for comS­core. “Th­ese are guys who can draw a huge au­di­ence in any type of movie that they’re in. It’s not like they’re pi­geon­holed into one kind of fran­chise. Den­zel Wash­ing­ton can be part of a genre, the West­ern, that doesn’t ex­actly have teenagers scram­bling to the movie the­ater.”

Sony Pic­tures’ “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” wasn’t cheap to make — it cost about $90 mil­lion — so its path to prof­itabil­ity isn’t as­sured. Di­rected by Fuqua (whose “Train­ing Day” and “The Equal­izer” also starred Wash­ing­ton), the film made splashy premieres at both the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and the Venice Film Fes­ti­val.

Com­ing in at a dis­tant sec­ond was Warner Bros.’ “Storks,” an an­i­mated re­lease where the largewinged birds have given up the baby de­liv­ery busi­ness for on­line sales. The film, which cost about $70 mil­lion to make, opened with $21.8 mil­lion. Di­rected by Ni­cholas Stoller and Doug Sweet­land, its voice cast is led by Andy Sam­berg.

The rest of the top 10 was pop­u­lated by holdovers, with “Sully” slot­ting in at third with $13.8 mil­lion in its third week. It has now grossed $92.4 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally. A po­ten­tially big­ger test of Hanks’ draw­ing power awaits the ac­tor next month with the re­lease of “In­ferno,” in which he reprises his role as Robert Lang­don in the Dan Brown fran­chise.

“The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” slots in as one of the big­gest open­ings for a West­ern ever, though the genre’s hey­day pre­dated mod­ern wide re­leases. The only West­erns to de­but bet­ter, not ac­count­ing for in­fla­tion, bended the genre in other di­rec­tions: sci-fi in the case of “Cow­boys & Aliens” ($36.4 mil­lion in 2011) and an­i­ma­tion in “Rango” ($38.1 mil­lion, also in 2011).

The West­ern, like Wash­ing­ton and Hanks, has proven quite durable at the box of­fice in re­cent years. The Coen broth­ers’ “True Grit” (which grossed $171.2 mil­lion in to­tal), Ale­jan­dro Inar­ritu’s “The Revenant” ($183.6 mil­lion) and a pair of Quintin Tarantino re­leases (“Django Un­chained,” with $162.8 mil­lion, and “The Hate­ful Eight,” with $54.1 mil­lion) have all proven the genre’s for­ti­tude.

“When you read this script as well as An­toine’s vi­sion of it, you knew it was go­ing to be cool and rel­e­vant,” said Rory Bruer, dis­tri­bu­tion head for Sony. “When you talk about gen­res or things that might not, on the sur­face, look to be the best play, it’s al­ways go­ing to about what’s in the story and how that story is told.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chris Pratt, right, and Den­zel Wash­ing­ton per­form in a scene from “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven.” An­toine Fuqua’s “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” re­make rode the star power of Den­zel Wash­ing­ton to an es­ti­mated $35 mil­lion de­but, top­ping North Amer­i­can ticket sales over the week­end.

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