Box Office: How ‘American Sniper’ Played Like a Superhero Movie

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’ smashes records with $90M weekend.

American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated biopic about Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, has, to put it lightly, been having a bonkers box-office weekend.Fueled by patriotism and six Oscar nominations, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is headed for a $105.2 million debut over the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend — the top opening ever for a non-tentpole and the biggest winter opening of all time. 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.

It literally played like a superhero title, or other big franchise installment, doing huge business everywhere, from the smallest towns in America’s heartland to more liberal cities on either coast. 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. According to Mendelson, the movie had the largest opening day for a straight drama—if you consider it as such—in history; it’s $30.5 million Friday take was more than any Eastwood-directed film has made in an entire weekend. 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.

It’s broken a bounty of January records: besides biggest debut weekend (over Kevin Hart’s Ride Along), it’s claimed biggest opening day (over Cloverfield) and best four-day opening for an R-rated film. The estimated IMAX total on 332 screens for the four-day weekend is $11.5 million (yet another record). “American Sniper,” with Bradley Cooper starring as Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle, initially opened in December to packed theaters in limited release — making nearly $3.4 million on a handful of screens in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

Sniper’s top-grossing theaters were in San Antonio (Kyle was from Texas), Oklahoma City, Houston, New York, Albuquerque, Nashille, Knoxville, Kansas City and Irvine, Calif. A combination of things—the film is buoyed by six Oscar nominations; it centers on a nationalistic, politically-charged subject that caters to heartland audiences; Eastwood is a nationally-renowned director and constant draw.

Any and all of these factors could be relevant, but it’s fair to say that critiques regarding the film’s accuracy—claims similar to the ones levied against Selma—don’t seem to be affecting commercial reception. The film, based on the beloved bear star of the children’s books, scored well with critics (98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (87%) alike. Appropriately, director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” rounded out the top five films with $8.3 million for the three-day weekend, and an estimated $10.3 million for the full MLK holiday. And Clint is an American icon, while Bradley’s star status is peaking.” Modern-day war movies, often sparking partisan debate, have a decidedly mixed track record. That’s not the case with American Sniper, which has been heavily promoted by Fox News Channel and has already earned more than Zero Dark Thirty did in its entire run domestically, or $95.7 million.

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