Denzel Washington’s ‘Flight’ soars above box office expectations

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This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Denzel Washington portraying Whip Whitaker in a scene from "Flight." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)

This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Denzel Washington portraying Whip Whitaker in a scene from "Flight." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)

Denzel Washington‘s acclaimed new film Flight is expected to score Oscar nominations but few prognosticators expected it to open to huge box office numbers, since it was opening in a relatively small 1,884 theaters.

But once again, the A-list actor proved that he is still one of the only truly bankable movie stars around.

Flight opened to an estimated $24.9 million, the third biggest opening ever for a movie opening in less than 2,000 theaters, it’s per screen average of $13,275 was actually the highest of any of other film this week — including the weekend winner kid’s movie Wreck It Ralph — and its A- Cinemascore rating suggests audiences will continue to build buzz around the film with positive word of mouth.

This film’s success bookends a strong year for Washington, who had one of the biggest hits of his career with February’s action thriller Safe House. The popularity of Flight adds to an impeccable track record for an actor who at 57 is arguably more popular than he has ever been before.

The Huffington Post’s Christopher Rosen calls Washington the “most dependable star in Hollywood”:

Consider these statistical facts: Since 2003, Washington hasn’t had a wide-release film (more than 1,500 theaters) open to less than $20 million. (The Great Debaters, a drama that Washington directed and co-starred in, opened in just 1,171 theaters in 2007; it grossed $6 million during its opening frame.) That’s 10 movies in nine years with openings ranging from solid ($20 million for The Manchurian Candidate and Deja Vu) to spectacular ($43 million for American Gangster).

Washington has achieved this feat without ever starring a blockbuster franchise, comic book film or ever even making a sequel to one of his established hits.

As Flight continues to expand in the coming weeks and competes for honors during award season, Entertainment Weekly predicts “a finish above $100 million certainly seems likely.”