‘American Sniper’ smashes box office records

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’ leads Friday box office.

It is now on pace to decimate records for the Martin Luther King holiday and for the month of January, pulling in roughly $105 million over the four-day period. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper ignited the holiday weekend box office, leaving January records behind as it made a stunning $90.2 million in three days.True to projections, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” led the box office race, shooting far past other new releases including the Kevin Hart comedy “The Wedding Ringer” and family film “Paddington.” The Iraq War drama, which received six Oscar nominations Thursday morning, pulled in an estimated $30.5 million, adding to its already impressive $240,212 from a limited release debut over Christmas weekend from just four theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

It’s also a new high-water mark for director Clint Eastwood, whose previous weekend record was the $29.5 million wide-release opening for 2008’s “Gran Torino.” At 84, he’s still got it. “The movie has become a cultural phenomenon,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution. “It tore apart the record book and not by a little. This was an interesting test case of sorts for Kevin Hart, as the somewhat generic looking comedy (sold as Hitch meets I Love You, Man meets The Hangover) was Hart’s first vehicle to surround him with mostly white cast members (none of whom are box office draws). Blowing past all reasonable predictions, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which stars Bradley Cooper as the most prolific sniper in US military history, crushed the January record books with a scorching $90.2 million Friday-to-Sunday and an estimated $105 million Friday-to-Monday debut frame. Following its remarkable $3.4 million gross across only four screens, the film’s first day in wide release has made it look like a blockbuster, earning $30.5 million on Friday.

Sony’s The Wedding Ringer opened yesterday with a solid $7 million yesterday, setting the stage for a $20.5m Fri-Sun frame and $23.8m Fri-Mon debut weekend. By an enormous amount.” “American Sniper,” recently picked up Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor for star Bradley Cooper, and the awards buzz only intensified interest in the film. The film felt like an oddly lower profile release in the media, and I suppose it was drowned out by all the Oscar talk and Michael Mann think pieces/retrospectives. To wit, that bests the previous January record (Ride Along with $41m/$48m on the same weekend last year) while becoming the second-biggest R-rated debut of all-time behind only The Matrix Reloaded ($91m). That came after the film, relentlessly promoted in what are proving to be highly effective television ads, proved impressive in a handful of theaters for the three weeks leading up to its broader distribution.

The film, which cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow about $58 million to make, rolled out in 3,555 screens across the U.S., bringing in more than $8,500 per screen. Sony’s marketing was mostly based on a deluge of preview screenings and various would-be “viral” events (such as Hart and Josh Gad crashing weddings).

It’s blockbuster numbers in January, the sort of numbers usually reserved for summer films and superhero movies,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for Rentrak. “No one saw this coming. The $30.5 million is a record for the opening day of wide release in January and is likely to propel the film to a new weekend record for the first month of the year. The debut came in below the $48m Fri-Mon debut of Ride Along (duh), the $29m Fri-Sun debut of Think Like A Man Too, and the $25m Fri-Sun debut of About Last Night.

The film has been building an audience and blasting any projections all weekend.” The $105 million tally is more than double what analysts were expecting, Dergarabedian says. This one bested that in a day, and is nearly 2/3 of the way (around $108m as of Monday) to besting the $148m domestic total of said Eastwood picture to claim the top grosser spot of his legendary career. The Bradley Cooper vehicle went wide this weekend after scorching four-theater per-screen-averages of over $100k p.s.a. for three weekends of limited release starting on Christmas Day where it earned $3 million going into the weekend.

It also keeps Hart’s box office roll going following his success in recent hits such as “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man.” “Kevin Hart really is that guy that everybody wants to hang with,” said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution. “Not only is he always funny, but he’s that guy that you want to sit down and have a beer with. I have to wonder if some of Hart’s fans were turned off by the whole “stick Hart with any white person regardless of star power so he can cross-over” pitch, as there it is a little patrionizing to think that a box office draw like Hart needs non-movie stars (who happen to be white) like Gad and Kaley Cuoco to “break out.” I imagine that Get Hard, which co-stars an actual comedy movie star (Will Ferrell) will do a bit better than March. Closing out the top five are Weinstein Co.’s “Paddington” with $4.7 million, last weekend’s leader “Taken 3” with $4.3 million, and the Oscar-nominated civil rights drama “Selma,” which made an estimated $2.4 million. The dynamite first teaser ranks among the best such spots from last year, and Warner Bros. knew it didn’t have to do much more that drop that harrowing tease. The Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. release even made it seem like even more of an event via asking IMAX to do a lightning-quick conversion for this weekend’s wide release.

That’s the worst average performance by best-picture nominees up to that point in the awards process, and it appears none will be able to reach the $100 million mark at any point during their U.S. theatrical run. A case in point is “Selma,” a biopic from Paramount Pictures VIA, +2.85% about the bloody 1965 civil rights march led by King, and one of the eight nominated films. While the fortunes of “Sniper” are likely to soar over the three-day weekend, when moviegoers are expected to flock to the theaters, “Selma” could suffer on a day that it otherwise might capitalize on its historical ties to the Monday King holiday. “Selma” also was in limited release for two weeks before going to wider distribution this past weekend and finishing in second place. The film, based on the beloved bear star of the children’s books, scored well with critics (98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences alike (87%). By the way, for all the (admittedly amusing) talk about how creepy Paddington looked when the first image was released, it should be noted that not a single kid in our packed Friday night audience was remotely frightened on the adorable little bear.

As is the case with “dead eyes” performance capture, I am again amused by how much effort adults put into being frightened or creeped out by something that was intended for children and doesn’t remotely frighten said target audience. Perhaps the weekend’s only disappointment was the debut of the Chris Hemsworth-starring Blackhat, which earned $4 million for the weekend ($4.6 million for the four-day). The $70m Legendary Pictures release, distributed by Universal/Comcast Corp., will likely end its holiday weekend with $4.8m and will be lucky to get to $15m total in America. With action junkies flocking to American Sniper and/or Taken 3, the Chris Hemsworth cyber-thriller earned just $4 million on its first Friday-Sunday weekend.

The potential good news is that much of the film takes place in Hong Kong and features Chinese actors like Wei Tang and Leeholm Tang in starring roles alongside Chris Hemsworth. As I discussed last January when Lone Survivor debuted with $37.8 million, films that unequivocally play to and/or are about people living in so-called flyover country yet are actually released wide enough to be seen by said moviegoers are akin to event movies. American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, earning mostly decent reviews and the above-noted Oscar buzz, and acting as a rare big-budget war movie that didn’t necessarily rub audiences’ faces in the morality of the specific conflict was indeed akin to The Avengers for the specific audience that will eat this up like catnip. The low-key film was never going to be a domestic blockbuster, but it may end up, when adjusted for inflation, being Michael Mann’s lowest-grossing film ever. The George Lopez/Jamie Lee Curtis/Marisa Tomei feel-good drama about kids who form a robotics club earned around $250,000 yesterday for a $825k weekend.

Mr. “We shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!” liberal film critic may have issues with the film’s politics, tin-eared dialogue, and its massaging a true-life biopic into generic action movie cliches (it’s less jingoistic than Lone Survivor, although frankly less interesting than the intriguingly procedural Act of Valor), but it arguably wasn’t made for me. It also means more multiplex films that espouse a political or social viewpoint that I might not necessarily agree with and/or play to demographics that aren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. The film earned around $2.36m on its second Friday (-37%) and should earn around $11.3m over the holiday frame, or about identical to the film’s $11.3m that it earned over its wide debut last weekend.

It’s not that they can open The Dark Knight Rises to $160 million, it’s that they can open Magic Mike to $39m, The Great Gatsby to $50m, Gravity to $55m, and now American Sniper to a $90m four-day debut weekend. I hope they don’t get too bogged down in DC Comics movies, because their ability to distribute and market movies like this to numbers anywhere resembling this, not their ability to make another Batman movie, is what makes them valuable to the industry.

Still, amusingly, its second weekend came in well under the $20m second weekend of the first Taken which dropped just 16% in weekend two after a $24m debut. The Benedict Cumberbatch espionage thriller earned its expected Oscar nomination haul on Thursday and is still playing like the big crowdpleaser of the crowd, save of course for American Sniper while will pass it by the end of this sentence. Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken was basically shut-out in the Oscar race, save for Roger Deakins’s cinematography and the sound categories, and it took a hit accordingly.

Oh, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies earned $1.185m to bring its cume to $240.8m while Inherent Vice now sits with $5.6m after a $320k Friday.

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