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Weekend Estimates: American Sniper Shatters January Record

January 18th, 2015

American Sniper poster

American Sniper was confidently expected to top the box office charts this weekend, and to give Clint Eastwood his best weekend as a director, but no-one was predicting that the film would break the record for the biggest weekend in January by over $20 million. As of Sunday morning, that’s what Warner Bros. is projecting for the film with their official weekend estimate standing at $90,205,000 from 3,555 theaters. Since the film had already played for three weeks in exclusive engagements, it will also grab the crown for biggest fourth weekend at the box office.

This stunning debut comes as particularly good news for an industry coming off a weak year. With theatrical revenues trending downwards, the focus is, more than ever, on finding films that can bridge demographics, and Eastwood’s ability to bring in a broad audience for a film about the Iraq War will shape thinking about similar films in the pipeline. It is also, perhaps, a sign that Americans are more receptive towards war films in general, now our most recent conflicts are over.

Two of the weekend’s other debutants are both performing solidly. The Wedding Ringer is set to earn around $21 million from 3,003 locations for second place over three days. A good bet for second place over four days is the kid-friendly Paddington, which is set for $19.3 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, from 3,303 venues. Paddington has already had a very successful overseas run, and solid domestic numbers virtually guarantee a sequel or two.

The weekend’s big miss is Blackhat, which will pick up around $4 million from 2,567 locations. It’s hard to tell for sure whether Sony’s recent experience with hacking helped or hurt the cyber thriller, but the numbers suggest the latter.

With Oscar nominations announced on Thursday morning, the weekend chart sees several films get healthy bounces, American Sniper arguably amongst them (technically, it's up 15,466% this weekend!). The biggest bump is enjoyed by Boyhood, with a 1,002% gain in keeping with its status as a frontrunner for Best Picture. Two Days, One Night is up 186%, partly thanks to doubling its theater count, but also because of Marion Cotillard’s Best Actress nomination. Whiplash leaps 169% ahead of a wide expansion next weekend, slightly ahead of Birdman’s 164% increase. Also up are Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything and a movie that missed out on nominations entirely, A Most Violent Year.

On the flip side, a few Oscar hopefuls are down this weekend, perhaps thanks to missing expected nominations, or for a feeling that their Oscar chances have diminished in general. Among them, Selma, The Imitation Game, Wild, Big Eyes and Mr. Turner. Awards Season is a cut-throat business.

- Weekend Estimates

Bruce Nash

Filed under: Weekend Box Office, Big Eyes, Selma, Foxcatcher, Paddington, Blackhat, The Wedding Ringer, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, Wild, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Marion Cotillard, Clint Eastwood