B.O. Roundup, January 16-18: 'American Sniper' Shatters Records with Huge $90 Million Haul

Sunday, 18 January 2015 14:38 Written by  iamrogue
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B.O. Roundup, January 16-18: 'American Sniper' Shatters Records with Huge $90 Million Haul

American Sniper broke a boatload of records this weekend, hauling in an unprecedented amount of cash for this type of movie this time of year, upending a whole lot of box office wisdom in the process.

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper's hagiography of Chris Kyle, "the deadliest sniper in American history" expanded to an nationwide release in 3,555 theaters and earned an estimated $90.2 million from Friday to Sunday, more than doubling projections for the weekend.

Those are summer superhero numbers, more in line with, say, X-Men: Days of Future Past or Captain America: The Winter Soldier than a heavy drama about the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, since American Sniper isn't it 3D, it actually sold more tickets than either of those comic book movies.

It's one for the record books, as American Sniper can now lay claim to the biggest January weekend, more than doubling the haul of Ride Along, which debuted to the tune of $41.5 million last year.  The film also snagged the record for MLK Weekend before the Monday figures are even incorporated into the tally.  With $11.5 million of the $90.2 million haul coming from IMAX screens, American Sniper also set a record for an R-rated movie in the jumbo-sized format. 

More impressively, it's the second-biggest opening for an R-rated movie ever, coming in just behind The Matrix Reloaded, which raked in $91.8 million more than a decade ago.  Oh, and it's by far the biggest debut of Clint Eastwood's career, easily surpassing the $28.5 million posted by Gran Torino in 2008.

How did this happen at all, let alone in January, traditionally seen as a month-long dumping ground?  A combination of factors, including a smart release strategy and marketing.  While eschewing a more straightforward platform release, Warner Bros. has been heavily hyping the film even though it's been playing in just four theaters nationwide, including one in the late Kyle's hometown.  Strong word of mouth combined with a higher-than-expected number of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.  And Bradley Cooper has hit a kind of critical mass, racking up his third consecutive Academy Award nod and establishing himself as one of the most popular contemporary leading men.

With American Sniper repudiating years of box office wisdom, it's easy to neglect the other movies that opened nationwide this weekend.  Kevin Hart sought to repeat Ride Along's success with The Wedding Ringer, a paint-by-numbers comedy that opened in second place with an estimated $21.0 million, just about half of Ride Along's showing a year ago.

In third place is Paddington, the family movie originally scheduled for Christmas.  The Paddington Bear movie scored majorly with critics, helping push the affable comedy to an estimated $19.2 million.  As with American Sniper, the audience reaction is so strong as to ensure that Paddington will be around for weeks to come.

Selma, the content of which is especially topical on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, came in fifth place behind Taken 3, which had a steep dive from its first place showing last week.  Selma, which was hosed with just two Oscar nominations, added an estimated $8.3 million for a total of $25.9 million.

The last of this weekend's new-new releases, the cyber-thriller Blackhat, had an ignominious opening, earning just $4.0 million, according to estimates, and barely making it into the top ten despite the presence of Chris "Thor" Hemsworth in the lead role.  Not only is that one of the worst debuts ever for a movie playing in over 2,500 theaters, it's also the lowest opening for director Michael Mann since Manhunter way, way back in 1986.

Here's the top ten for you to peruse at your own pace:

1. American Sniper......................................................................$90.2 million..............$93.6 million

2. The Wedding Ringer................................................................$21.0 million..............New Release

3. Paddington...............................................................................$19.2 million..............New Release

4. Taken 3.....................................................................................$14.5 million..............$62.8 million

5. Selma........................................................................................$8.3 million................$25.9 million

6. The Imitation Game.................................................................$7.1 million................$50.7 million

7. Into the Woods........................................................................$6.5 million................$114.2 million

8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies............................$4.8 million................$244.5 million

9. Unbroken.................................................................................$4.2 million................$108.6 million

10. Blackhat.................................................................................$4.0 million................New Release

Thanks mostly to American Sniper, the top twelve movies made around $183 million this weekend, up almost 20% from the same frame last year.

Next Friday sees the addition of The Boy Next Door, Strange Magic, and Mortdecai to the box office fray.  Will any of these be able to unseat American Sniper after its paradigm-shifting nationwide expansion?  Unlikely.


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