'Richard Jewell' opens with dismal $5 million haul amid controversy over depiction of reporter trading sex for a scoop

Key Points
  • "Richard Jewell" garnered only $5 million during its domestic debut.
  • The film was expected to haul in around $10 million.
  • Prior to its release, the film sparked a heated battle between Warner Bros. and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the depiction of the late Kathy Scruggs.
Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates and Paul Walter Hauser star in Warner Bros. "Richard Jewell."
Warner Bros.

Following a nearly month-long controversy over depictions of a Georgia-based reporter, "Richard Jewell" finally arrived in theaters this weekend.

However, the film, which is about how the media reported on a bombing that took place during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and how the FBI investigated the attack, had a frosty reception from moviegoers. The Clint Eastwood drama garnered only $5 million during its domestic debut.

"Often controversy can stir publicity and at this time of year adult dramas have a history of opening modestly, but ultimately have solid playability over time as people come out to see what the fuss is about so it's a bit early to count 'Richard Jewell' out," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.

"Richard Jewell" has sparked a heated battle between Warner Bros., which distributed the film, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a newspaper that reported on the events depicted in the film during the mid-to-late '90s.

In the film, there is a plot line in which Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, offers a federal agent sex in exchange for a scoop. That depiction of Scruggs and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she worked at the time, has drawn criticism, particularly from the current staff at the newspaper.

Cox Enterprises, the AJC's parent company, sent a letter last week to Warner Bros., Eastwood and several other people associated with the film, threatening legal action unless a disclaimer was added to the film and a public statement was made by the studio acknowledging that "some events were imagined for dramatic purposes."

Warner Bros. was quick to respond, calling the newspaper's claims "baseless."

"The film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material," Warner Bros. said in a statement.

"Richard Jewell" had been expected to bring in around $10 million at the box office this weekend.

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