Perhaps due to controversy regarding its characterization prior to release, Clint Eastwood’s newest film Richard Jewell earned only $5 million its opening weekend in 2500 theaters. This makes for the 89 year-old director’s worst debut in nearly 40 years, following 1980’s Billy Bronco‘s $3.7 million.
The film, based on the real-life story of its titular security guard Richard Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser), covers the fallout of his actions during the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing and the media smear campaign that followed. Actress Olivia Wilde, who portrays late journalist Kathy Scruggs, found herself and the film under fire this past week due to controversy that Richard Jewell portrays Scruggs as having exchanged sex for information from an FBI agent, an allegation The Atlanta Journal Constitution quickly labeled as untrue.
Despite this controversy, the film has received early critical acclaim from critics, with Eastwood’s direction of the biographical feature receiving specific praise. Given its reported budget of $45 million, the mere $5 million opening definitely comes as a loss. As December releases tend to suffer from small opening weekends, analysts indicate the film could end up grossing just upwards of $30 million. Eastwood’s previous releases like 2016’s Sully and 2014’s American Sniper proved far more successful, grossing $35 million and $89 million, respectively.
Richard Jewell also features Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, and Kathy Bates in supporting roles and is currently screening nationwide in theaters.