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George Clooney’s “The American” nabs $1.6M on opening day

By Sean O’Connell Anton Corbijn’s “The American” earned $1.6 million in its first day of release, which brings us to the question, “Why did Focus choose to open the film on a Wednesday?”

Sure, it gives the moody thriller – which is constructed around an arresting George Clooney — a jumpstart on the Labor Day holiday. But with school back in session, that weekend doesn’t draw at the box office the way, say, a July 4th release would. Last year, for example, “The Final Destination” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” held off challenges from Sandra Bullock’s “All About Steve” and “Gamer” in the top four box office slots, but the films only earned $15.2M, $14.9M, $14M and $11.2M, respectively.

Perhaps Focus knows the film needs to build up a steady stream of positive word-of-mouth, so giving it a head start going into the weekend will only help its chances of reaching a wider audience.

This isn’t Clooney in another “Ocean’s” film, and Corbijn isn’t a household name. The movie’s also far quieter than many may expect (though to me, that’s a blessing), with Clooney giving a compelling but internal performance in a film that washes over you very slowly but always holds you in its grip.

“The American” is playing in 2,823 theaters, so it’s hardly a soft launch. It shouldn’t lose too much of its audience to Drew Barrymore’s “Going the Distance” but could get slaughtered by Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete,” which delivers the gratuitous thrills and carnage many might have thought they were going to get in “The American.”

In hindsight, it looks like that Wednesday launch was the best possible play.

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