American Sniper hit the bullseye, earning an astonishing $90.2 million in its debut weekend.
It is now on pace to decimate records for the Martin Luther King holiday and for the month of January, pulling in roughly $105 million over the four-day period. It’s also a new high-water mark for director Clint Eastwood, whose previous weekend record was the $29.5 million wide-release opening for 2008’s Gran Torino. At 84, he’s still got it.
“The movie has become a cultural phenomenon,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution. “It tore apart the record book and not by a little. By an enormous amount.”
American Sniper, recently picked up Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor for star Bradley Cooper, and the awards buzz only intensified interest in the film. The war drama was co-produced and co-financed by Village Roadshow for less than $60 million.
American Sniper wasn’t the only record-breaker. Sony and Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer, starring Kevin Hart as a best man for hire, is looking to be the number one R-rated comedy opening for the month of January. The film will earned $21 million for the weekend and should pick up $25 million for the four-day holiday. Those numbers are good news for a film that cost $23 million to produce. It also keeps Hart’s box office roll going following his success in recent hits such as Ride Along and Think Like a Man.
“Kevin Hart really is that guy that everybody wants to hang with,” said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution. “Not only is he always funny, but he’s that guy that you want to sit down and have a beer with. He exudes charisma.”
The Weinstein Co.’s Paddington opened to $19.3 million from 3,303 screens for the weekend and a third-place finish. By Monday, however, it could supplant The Wedding Ringer as the holiday’s second highest grossing film as it is also expected to earn roughly $25 million over the four-day period. The Weinstein Company picked up U.S. distribution rights from StudioCanal, which financed the $55 million adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved series about a talking bear with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches.
American Sniper’s success was bad news for the weekend’s other adult drama, Blackhat. Michael Mann’s look at the way we hack now flopped, earning a doleful $4 million from 2,567 locations for the weekend and should make $4.6 million over the holiday. That’s a dreadful result for the $70 million production and the worst of Mann’s career. It’s lower even than the modest $10 million the studio projected Blackhat would pull in over the four-day period. Legendary Pictures backed the film, with Universal distributing.
The top five was rounded out by holdovers, Taken 3 and Selma. Liam Neeson’s latest vigilante flick fell sharply in its sophomore frame, dropping more than 60% to earn $14 million over the weekend and bringing its total to $62.8 million.
Despite being snubbed in several major Oscar categories, Paramount Pictures’ Selma seemed to capitalize on the Martin Luther King holiday, earning $8.3 million. It should earn $10.3 million over the four-day period. The Civil Rights drama has made nearly $28 million since premiering in limited release on Christmas.
Watch the trailer for American Sniper below: