Box Office: ‘American Sniper’ Is Biggest January Opening in History

American Sniper didn’t just prove popular with Oscar voters, it’s proven popular with America as well.

Clint Eastwood’s war drama opened with $105.3 million for the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, getting a huge PR boost after earning multiple Academy Award nominations last Thursday, making this the biggest Oscar bump any film has ever received. The movie earned six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, his third consecutive nomination.

This opening makes American Sniper the biggest January opening in history, as well as the top opening of all-time for a non-tentpole film (i.e., a movie that “is expected to support a wide range of ancillary tie-in products such as toys and games”). This bests the previous record holder for a non-tentpole drama, The Passion of the Christ, which opened to $83.8 million in 2004.

Impressively, the movie is also doing big numbers internationally, raking in $25.4 million to bring its worldwide gross to $134.1 million.

American Sniper was a $60 million investment for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, as the two studios split the cost between them. The film was expected to open between $45 million to $50 million, projections largely based off of the soft opening the movie had in limited release during the Christmas holiday in places such as New York and Los Angeles. However, the movie has surpassed even the most optimistic expectations, grossing a domestic total that is now up to $108.7 million. In addition, American Sniper is now the biggest opening of Clint Eastwood’s career as a director, toppling his former best, Gran Torino, which opened to $29.5 million in 2008.

Meanwhile, Kevin Hart returned to the January box office after the massive success of his buddy cop comedy Ride Along last year.

The Wedding Ringer opened to a four-day debut of $24.5 million, making it the top showing of all-time for an R-rated comedy opening in January. However, even with the tremendous opening the comedy enjoyed, it still wasn’t enough to overcome the newest family offering, as Paddington took the No. 2 spot at the box office. The family film, centering on the iconic British bear from the children’s stories of the same name, grossed $25.2 million for the four-day period. Coupled with the $135 million the movie has earned from its successful run overseas, Paddington is now at a worldwide total of $160.2 million.

American Sniper, however, was not the only Oscar nominee to post big gains over this weekend.

Ava DuVernay’s civil rights drama Selma, which managed to score two nominations (Best Picture and Best Original Song for “Glory” by John Legend and Common), earned the No. 5 spot this week, with $11.5 million. While it was not enough to overtake Taken 3, which came in at No. 4, Selma is still making a strong showing, perhaps driven by the public outcry at David Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King Jr. getting snubbed by the Academy. If nothing else, Selma is among the most critically acclaimed films to appear in the Top 10 this week, neck-and-neck with American Sniper, which is far more critically divisive.

Also enjoying a boost is The Imitation Game, which earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch. The movie landed at No. 7, just behind Into the Woods, which continued to make a showing in the Top 10, despite missing out on a Best Picture nomination (although the film did receive nominations for Meryl Streep in the Best Supporting Actress category, as well as nominations for Costume Design and Production Design).

Unfortunately, not all was well at the box office for every new arrival this weekend, as Chris Hemsworth’s new starring vehicle, the hacker drama Blackhat, bombed outright. The film debuted at No. 11 with $4.4 million, a massive loss for Universal and Legendary Pictures, as the film now has little chance of turning a profit on its $70 million production budget, especially considering it did even worse overseas. The film has earned just $2.2 million internationally, which is disappointing for a new release with this kind of promotional machine behind it. If nothing else, it’s likely to cast doubt on Hemsworth’s ability to open a film on his own, away from the Thor character.

Check out the full Top 10 list for the Weekend Box Office based on industry estimates for the four-day holiday weekend period below, and let us know what you saw and what you want to see in the comments!

Box Office 'American Sniper' Is Biggest January Opening in History

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures


1. American Sniper ($105.3 million)
2. Paddington ($25.2 million)
3. The Wedding Ringer ($24.5 million)
4. Taken 3 ($17.4 million)
5. Selma ($11.5 million)
6. Into the Woods ($8.7 million)
7. The Imitation Game ($8.1 million)
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ($6 million)
9. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ($5.1 million)
10. Unbroken ($5 million)

Via: The Hollywood Reporter / Box Office Mojo

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