Baseball film "Trouble with the Curve" took a big swing and a miss at the box office this weekend. It performed way below analyst expectations, bringing in $12.7 million instead of a predicted $18 million, landing in third place -- just a few hundred thousand dollars behind "End of Watch" and "House at the End of the Street."
But the trouble with "Trouble" is not what you might first expect. And yes, I'm referring to Clint Eastwood's now infamous empty chair speech.
[Related: Clint Eastwood would prefer an RNC take two]
"Trouble" is the first film Eastwood has starred in -- that he hasn't directed -- since 1993 action film "In the Line of Fire." But that doesn't seem to be the issue as that film had a strong opening and wound up netting a healthy $102.3 million domestically.
Also starring Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams, "Trouble" is a film about a father's relationship with his daughter, set against the backdrop of baseball. It was positioned to open just in time for major league playoffs, but that didn't seem to help the film along during an overall weak box office weekend. "'Curve' fell victim to a slow overall marketplace and a lack of any momentum after four slow weeks at the nation's theaters," says industry analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
You could blame it on Eastwood's widely-mocked Republican National Convention speech wherein he addressed an empty chair. But Dergarabedian says it's not that simple. The effect Eastwood's RNC speech had on his film's opening is "almost impossible to quantify," he says, adding, "I personally think that this performed about the same as it would have regardless of the empty chair speech.... for every potential moviegoer he turned off on the left, he may have gained one on the right."
"Eastwood's movies typically draw an older demo[graphic] who don't rush out opening weekend and then build an audience over time," Dergarabedian points out. But with just a B+ from CinemaScore -- which measures movie appeal among audiences -- and a weak 51 percent Rotten Tomatoes score among movie critics, it's quite a stretch to compare "Trouble with the Curve" to Eastwood's Oscar winner "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) and his "Gran Tarino" (2008) -- both of which expanded based on word of mouth, and both of which topped $100 million.
Beyond its cool reception from critics, the real trouble with "Trouble" seems to be that Americans just don't care about baseball anymore... and they haven't for a while. The last baseball film to crack the $100 million mark, according to Box Office Mojo, was "A League of Their Own" all the way back in 1992. While "Moneyball" in 2011 was critically acclaimed -- and nominated for six Oscars -- it only made $75.6 million domestically.
Just think about it: Americans have made their choice -- and their choice appeals to a growing thirst for bodies slamming into each other in the sport of football. While we're in the midst of baseball playoffs, NFL season opening games are completely dominating in not just sports television ratings, but overall television ratings. By comparison, Forbes writer Leigh Steinberg points out, "Baseball has slower rhythms. It is an experience passed down from fathers to sons and needs history and context to be fully enjoyed. It is a sport that is played at a more leisurely pace that doesn't fit contemporary taste quite as well."
Football films have also had much more success than baseball films over the past twenty years. Titles like "The Blind Side," "The Waterboy," "The Longest Yard," "Remember the Titans" -- all raked in more than $100 million (and "The Blind Side," which earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar, made a whopping $256 million).
Perhaps if Eastwood played a football scout, it would have gone down differently.
Watch 'Trouble with the Curve' Theatrical Trailer:
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