The Curious Case of Gran Torino’s Box-Office Power

This year's Oscar story lines have already been etched in stone — Mickey Rourke as the comeback kid, Slumdog Millionaire as the art-house wunderkind, Milk as the timely social commentary (released three weeks after Proposition 8 passed in California). Yet while the critics have been fussing over wrestlers and Mumbai quiz shows, audiences have been flocking to Gran Torino — an Oscar outcast that's been doing laps around the competition at the box office. At some point this week, the Clint Eastwood drama will pass the $100 million mark, easily surpassing the box-office receipts brought in by not only some of the Oscar front-runners (Slumdog Millionaire now totals $56 million, Milk $21 million) but also Eastwood's last Oscar winner, Million Dollar Baby.

"It's an amazing story that no one's really talking about," says Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst with Hollywood.com. "For a movie starring a 78-year-old to have a $29 million opening weekend in wide release, and in the process to beat out the likes of Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars, I don't know if I've seen that before ... It's a testament to how people still feel about Clint Eastwood."

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