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Tom Hanks' 'Captain Phillips' opening: Where does it rate?

October 14, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Tom Hanks stars in "Captain Phillips," which took in $26 million at the box office this weekend.
Tom Hanks stars in "Captain Phillips," which took in $26 million… (Columbia Pictures )

The results this weekend for Tom Hanks’ hijacking drama “Captain Phillips” — which took in $26 million in U.S. ticket sales from just more than 3,000 theaters -- are a tricky beast to size up. On the one hand, the movie beat expectations; on the other, it was defeated by a holdover, Sandra Bullock’s “Gravity.”

Back on that first hand, it was, given how hard it is for stars to open movies, a solid number for a one of the few actors still expected to open movies with ease; on the other, it somehow also seemed  less-than-overwhelming for one of the few actors still expected to open movies with ease.

How does "Captain Phillips' " opening stack up — not just compared with unrelated movies this weekend but to Hanks' other movies over the years?

PHOTOS: Tom Hanks | Career in pictures

To explore this question (we’re geeky like that) we decided to return to all of Hanks' live-action starring vehicles over the last 15 years to see which wide releases had an opening-weekend edge over “Phillips.” Fifteen years is a good period to evaluate -- 1998’s "Saving Private Ryan" marking a new phase of sorts after Hanks’ early-mid '90s Gumpian success. It was his first live-action movie to go truly wide at nearly 2,500 screens and it offers a neat 10-film sample to boot. (Not included are ensemble pieces such as “Cloud Atlas” or films that had limited openings, such as “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”) All figures are adjusted for inflation because, well, we're accurate like that too. The numbers are also offered with some context.

"Saving Private Ryan" (1998) -- Hanks had the Spielberg brand and a host of costars to help him, not to mention a general nostalgia for the Greatest Generation. Even so, a $44-million opening for an epic-length war picture is pretty great. "Captain Phillips'" $26 million can't match that. Advantage: "Saving Private Ryan"

"You've Got Mail" (1998) -- It's about as different a genre as you can get from "Captain Phillips." Yet the total -- $26 million in today's dollars -- is as close as it gets. Still, given the fact that “Mail” was a holiday comedy and reunited him with Meg Ryan, his magic box-office partner, it probably should have had a more successful opening. Advantage: "Captain Phillips"

PHOTOS: Captain Phillips on screen and in real life

"The Green Mile" (1999) -- Something about the number $26 million -- the supernatural prison tale, based on a Stephen King novel, also opened to that amount. The King pedigree should swing the edge to "Phillips," which didn't have that advantage. But "Mile" opened in a couple of hundred fewer theaters and, at more than three hours, had its opening-weekend sum hamstrung by fewer show times. It's close, but give the edge to the Death Row tale. Advantage: "Green Mile"

"Cast Away" (2000) -- An opening of $38 million en route to a whopping total take ($233 million) puts that movie -- the other nautical-themed stranded tale -- squarely ahead of "Phillips." Advantage: "Cast Away"

"Road to Perdition" (2002) -- Another close comparison, monetarily speaking. The gangster-themed graphic novel adaptation took in $28.6 million in today's dollars on its opening weekend. But it was shown in barely half the number of theaters as “Phillips.” Advantage: "Road to Perdition"

"The Terminal" (2004) -- A character-driven story outside of a specific genre, it managed a solid $23.5 million and rode on long legs to a $95 million total in the U.S. (and twice that overseas). Sure, it was in a slightly tougher genre than the survival-action tale of "Phillips, but its opening is still lower than "Phillips." "Terminal" also was beaten in its opening weekend (by "Dodgeball"), so no edge there. (Slight) advantage: "Captain Phillips"

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