Box Office: American Sniper Blows Away Competition In Wide Release With Impressive $90.2 Million Bow


As a follow-up to our story on American Sniper‘s Friday wide release and an estimated total of $30.5 million, well it looks like it will shatter the expected $80M haul with $90.2 million. This should not be a surprise, as we outlined several reasons as to why the Clint Eastwood-directed pic would play so well with audiences. In 2013, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor played well with audiences, especially those in red states or with military backgrounds. But the performance of American Sniper seems unprecedented. This is a film that, for a two week stretch, played on limited screens (a total of four!) before being pushed wide by Warner Bros. The result was astonishing. $90.2 million is something to be expected for a summer blockbuster, not a movie opening wide in January. And yet the military drama has smashed records in both limited and now wide release. The weekend figure makes the film the highest grossing debut for a drama of all time. Factor in its R-rating and it also makes it the second-highest grossing R-rated opening ever, behind The Matrix Reloaded.

Much in the same respect that a film like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator spurred a need for Hollywood to produce more swords-and-sandals epics (I call it “The Gladiator Effect”) look for movie studios to look for more books about recent wartime experiences and compete to get to them to the big screen. So if Bradley Cooper played the most deadly U.S. sniper as a Navy SEAL, does that mean we’ll see biopics or docudramas about the top-ranked marksmen from the USMC and Army as well? If it’s all about records, then someone might want to do one on Finland’s Simo Häyhä (aka “The White Death”). He recorded 505 confirmed kills in 100 days during the Second World War! This also included being stationed in temperatures of up to -40 degrees Celsius.

Until the wide release of American Sniper, the top domestic-grossing Best Picture nominee was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel with $59 million (overseas it has made another $115.5M). Look for this docudrama about the life of SEAL sniper Chris Kyle to be a constant top five weekend performer well into February.


Three other films debuted in wide release, but looked like blips at the marketplace compared to Eastwood’s drama. They included Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer. Opening at $21 million in spite of terrible reviews, it only goes to show that comedian Kevin Hart is a box office draw to some extent. Last year, he was in Ride Along with Ice Cube. It was a hit. Then he was in About Last Night…, which was sorely overlooked by many, even his fanbase. Supporting roles in Think Like a Man Too and Chris Rock’s Top Five, two films that were decent hits, helps his star appeal. But will it work this spring when he co-stars with funnyman Will Ferrell in Get Hard?

Family feature Paddington turned out to be better than advertisements made it out to be. Bad marketing on The Weinstein Company didn’t dissuade audiences from seeing the famed children’s literature character on the big screen. With strong critical reviews and raves from young and old audiences alike its $19.2M bow should maintain relative drops in the coming weeks as it tries to fend off competition like Strange Magic (January 23rd) and SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water (February 6th).

The last major release was Michael Mann’s Blackhat and it only mustered $4 million in its opening weekend. This is a bomb for both filmmaker Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat) and studio Universal Pictures. Premiering on 2500+ screens, a $4M bow versus an estimated $70 million budget just won’t get it done. Unless it is a huge hit in Asia, then this will for all intents and purposes be the first big box office casualty of 2015.

Also around the top ten, Taken 3 passed $60 million domestically in its second week and Paramount’s Selma surpassed the $25 million mark in its second week of wide release.

Full Top 10 listing below.

01. American Sniper — $90.2 Million ($93.6M)
02. The Wedding Ringer — $21 Million
03. Paddington — $19.2 Million
04. Taken 3 — $14 Million ($62.8M)
05. Selma — $8.3 Million ($25.9M)
06. The Imitation Game — $7.2 Million ($50.8M)
07. Into the Woods — $6.5 Million ($114.2M)
08. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — $4.86 Million ($244.5M)
09. Unbroken — $4.26 Million ($108.6M)
10. Blackhat — $4 Million

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