Box Office: ‘American Sniper’ Makes History With Massive $105.3M Debut

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper': Making a box office statement.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — American Sniper took aim at the box office and debuted in first place over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the first weekend since the Oscar nominations. This piece will be dealing solely with American Sniper and its huge $89.5 million weekend, with the rest of the weekend box office news to be found HERE. 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 $89.5 million Friday-to-Sunday and an estimated $105.3 million Friday-to-Monday debut frame.

American Sniper marks the biggest launch ever for a non-tentpole Hollywood title, as well as for a movie opening in January — much less an R-rated modern-day war film (the previous best for a drama was The Passion of the Christ with $83.8 million). Contrino predicts the film could land in record-breaking January territory — the $75-$80 million range — for the weekend. “The word of mouth on this is so incredibly strong.

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). And the film’s three-day haul of $89.5 million marks the No. 2 debut for an R-rated film after The Matrix: Reloaded ($91.8 million), not accounting for inflation.

This is uncharted territory.” The R rated film, which has Bradley Cooper starring as real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, received a boost on Thursday with six Oscar nominations — including best picture and best actor for Cooper. 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 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. Just as impressive, American Sniper is posting strong numbers overseas, despite its pro-American military theme, earning $25.4 million to date for an early worldwide cume of $134.1 million. “It is a cultural phenomenon and a perfect storm,” said Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. “If you would have told me we’d do these numbers, I would have replied that you were smoking something.

It marks director Eastwood’s biggest debut, surpassing “Gran Torino,” which earned $29.5 million in 2008. “American Sniper topped that with Friday’s $30.5 million opening. 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 performed well in every market, from the smallest town to the biggest cities.” Earning a coveted A+ CinemaScore in every category, Sniper galvanized moviegoers in both red states and blue states. 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.

Josh Gad and Kevin Hart’s The “Wedding Ringer” took second place with $21 million for the three-day weekend (an estimated $25 million for four days). 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. The studio picked up U.S. distribution rights from StudioCanal, which financed the $55 million adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved series about a talking bear.

The film, based on the beloved bear star of the children’s books, scored well with critics (98 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (87 percent) alike. Pity poor Michael Mann. “The Insider” auteur’s latest, “Blackhat,” a look at cyber terrorism starring Chris Hemsworth, crashed and burned with $4.4 million from 2,567 North American theaters. Still, Wedding Ringer didn’t match the $27.8 million debut of Hart’s About Last Night over Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekend in February 2014. Okay, if you want to count the mostly “real world” Indiana Jones pictures (they tend to go religious/fantasy right at the very end), then you add in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with its $100m Fri-Sun debut.

The action sequel pulled in $17.4 million, bringing its total to $66.2 million. “Selma,” Paramount’s Civil Rights drama, used Oscar buzz and the national holiday, to capture fifth place with approximately $11 million. It was only supposed to come out in the high teens,” said TWC’s Erik Lomis. “This is a great reception for this character in the U.S., and it is playing through the roof in Middle America.” American Sniper was among a number of awards contenders looking for a box-office boost after landing an Oscar nomination for best picture, the most coveted category.

That includes Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which took in nearly $11 million over the long MLK holiday to place No. 5 in its second weekend in wide release (Taken 3 placed No. 4) for a domestic total just north of $28 million. 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. And since it’s basically a 2.25-hour R-rated action picture directed by Clint Eastwood, it attracted huge chunks of moviegoers that didn’t care about the politics or the the demographics. Other best-picture contenders — including Birdman, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash — stand to benefit less, since they are further into their runs.

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.

Despite its topicality in light of the hacking of Sony (reportedly by North Korea) and the star power of Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat fell outside of the top 10 with a four-day debut of $4.4 million (it placed No. 11). 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.

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