By Daniel Garris
Warner's American Sniper broke out in a big way this weekend with a massive $107.21 million in its first four days of wide release. The Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper had clearly been building up major momentum leading up to its wide release and ultimately exploded out of the gate this weekend to a degree that nobody was expecting. With a three-day gross of $89.27 million, American Sniper easily established new opening weekend records for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and for the month of January as it outpaced the $41.52 million take of previous record holder, last year's Ride Along, by an astounding 115 percent. With the addition of a very strong performance in three weeks of platform release (which clearly helped build up buzz for the film), American Sniper has grossed $110.64 million through Monday.
In a break-out performance of this size, American Sniper clearly appealed to various audience demographics and to moviegoers throughout the country. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards male moviegoers (57 percent) and towards moviegoers over 25 years of age (63 percent). American Sniper also received an added boost from the strong performance of its fairly last-minute IMAX release, which was responsible for an estimated $10.82 million of the film's overall gross this weekend.
With no potential blockbuster performers arriving in the marketplace over the next two weeks, American Sniper is in perfect position to continue to dominate the box office throughout the rest of January. The film received an exceptional A+ rating on CinemaScore.
It was a tight race for second place between Paddington and The Wedding Ringer this weekend. While The Wedding Ringer placed in second over the three-day frame, Paddington moved into second place over the four-day frame.
Paddington took in respective three-day and four-day grosses of $18.97 million and $25.49 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company debuted on the high end of expectations. Paddington opened just 1 percent below the $25.70 million four-day start of The Nut Job over Martin Luther King weekend last year, which was quite respectable given that Paddington didn't have the added advantage of higher priced 3D admissions that The Nut Job and most other family films have. Paddington received an A rating on CinemaScore, which is a promising early sign for the film going forward.
Sony's The Wedding Ringer was off to a respectable start with respective three-day and four-day grosses of $20.65 million and $24.04 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad opened on the low end of pre-release expectations. The Wedding Ringer opened 14 percent below the $27.84 million four-day start of last year's About Last Night, but will likely hold up better going forward than About Last Night did (due in part to that film being a Valentine's Day release). Potential for The Wedding Ringer was no doubt limited at least somewhat by the breakout performance of American Sniper with adult moviegoers. The Wedding Ringer received a healthy A- rating on CinemaScore.
On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start Fox's Taken 3 was down three spots and a sharp 56.5 percent to land in fourth place with $17.05 million over the four-day frame. Audience overlap with American Sniper has clearly led to increased front-loading for Taken 3. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise has grossed $65.84 million in eleven days. That places the film a reasonable 25 percent behind the $87.80 million eleven-day take of 2012's Taken 2. Taken 3 grossed $14.72 million over the three-day frame.
Selma rounded out the weekend's top five with a four-day take of $13.85 million. The Best Picture nominee from Paramount was up a healthy 22.5 percent over last weekend's three-day performance. The film was helped out this weekend by the Martin Luther King holiday (Monday's $5.07 million performance represented an 86.5 percent increase over Sunday) and by its Best Picture nomination. Selma has grossed $31.51 million after eleven days of wide release. While Selma is performing softer than was widely anticipated, the film is still having a respectable run thus far with its modest price tag in mind. Selma took in $8.78 million over the three-day frame.
Four-day holiday weekend grosses for other Best Picture nominees included $8.02 million for The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game (playing in 1,611 locations), $1.87 million for Fox Searchlight's Birdman (playing in 471 locations) and $1.18 million for Focus' The Theory of Everything (playing in 509 locations). Respective current total grosses stand at $51.62 million for The Imitation Game, at $28.59 million for Birdman and at $27.49 million for The Theory of Everything.
Meanwhile, Universal's Blackhat was dead on arrival this weekend with $4.49 million over the four-day frame. The Michael Mann directed film starring Chris Hemsworth debuted in eleventh place and opened well below its already modest expectations. The decision to open Blackhat against American Sniper (and one week after Taken 3) always seemed like a puzzling one and Blackhat simply couldn't find an audience this weekend due in part to that decision. The film debuted 75 percent below the $18.03 million start of last year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Long term prospects for Blackhat are bleak and the film having received a poor C- rating on CinemaScore won't help matters either. Blackhat grossed $3.90 million over the three-day frame.