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Weekend Predictions: Can Sniper Expand into First Place?

January 16th, 2015

American Sniper poster

There are four films opening or expanding wide this Martin Luther King Day weekend. American Sniper is expanding wide after its record-breaking limited release run. The Wedding Ringer is expected to earn second place, while Paddington and Blackhat are the other wide releases. They have opposite results when it comes to reviews, but I fear neither will find an audience in theaters. This weekend last year was led by Ride Along with $41.52 million. I don't think American Sniper will match that, nor do I think the overall box office is quite as strong, so 2015 will probably lose the year-over-year comparison. Hopefully it will be close.

American Sniper earned six Oscar nominations, which should help its box office chances. Its reviews are 76% positive, which is great for a wide release, but not enough for an Oscar-nominee. The film's limited release run has been record-breaking earning more than $100,000 on the per theater chart for the third weekend in a row. This should help it earn first place this weekend and some think it will top $40 million over the three-day weekend. That seems a little high, but $40 million over 4-days seems a lot more likely. Look for $38 million over three days and $47 million over four. Add in its limited release run and it will finish the weekend with a total north of $50 million.

The Wedding Ringer looked like it would open in first place, but American Sniper unbelievable run in limited release has since changed that. Its reviews are about what you would expect for a January release, I.E., they are really bad. The buzz is still pretty good and it should earn a solid second place with $24 million / $29 million over the three-day / four-day weekend. This will be enough to be considered a financial success, but won't live up to Kevin Hart's previous January release, Ride Along.

Paddington is a difficult movie to predict. It is based on a series of kids books that are really popular in their native U.K., but I'm not sure how popular they are here. The reviews are literally Oscar-worthy. They are certainly better than many of the films that picked up several Oscar-nods yesterday. Additionally, Fandango is reporting that Paddington is the second-best selling film on their site this week and is not that far behind American Sniper. If it could open with more than $30 million, that would be amazing. A $21 million / $26 million opening is probably far more likely, on the other hand. That's still a great start for a family film opening in January.

Taken 3 opened in first place last weekend, but it appears to be on pace for fourth place this weekend. It will be close enough to Paddington that it won't be a surprise if the two films end up battling for third place, but I think Taken 3 will come out on the losing end of that with $18 million / $22 million.

Selma should round out the top five with $15 million over four days. This is likely more than it cost to make, but less than it would have gotten had the film's reviews turned into success at the Oscars this week.

Blackhat might be the black mark of the weekend. Its reviews are really bad and the buzz is really quiet. Additionally, there is too much competition, including a couple of films that could be labeled direct competition. On the high end, it might battle for fifth place with $12 million / $15 million over the weekend. However, on the low end, it might not reach $10 million over four days. $9 million over three days and $11 million over four seems the most likely.

One last note, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb had to wait two more days to reach $100 million, but it became the 32nd film released in 2014 to get to that milestone.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Selma, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Paddington, Blackhat, The Wedding Ringer, Taken 3, American Sniper, Kevin Hart