UPDATED 1/19: The premise of this original story was to illustrate how American Sniper continually altered the expectations of box office analysts, with its success going from an estimate of $44 million to supposedly finishing this past weekend at $90 million. It turns out that the latter figure still wasn’t big enough to encompass the film’s opening weekend success, as Variety is now reporting that American Sniper finished the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend with a pretty staggering $105.3 million.
Two records were broken by this past weekend’s performance from the film based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography. The previous record for highest box office take during the MLK weekend was held by last year’s Ride Along starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, which took in $48.3 million a year ago. The largest box office weekend for the month of January was previously held by James Cameron’s Avatar, which took in 68.5 million in 2010. Both of these records were laid waste by American Sniper. The film has also become the highest grossing weekend for an R-rated drama film, surpassing Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, and stands second only to 2003’s very hyped The Matrix Reloaded in the realm of highest grossing openings for an R-rated film.
Obviously, we’ll be keeping an eye on the performance of American Sniper to see how well it performs up through the airing of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 22nd.
Original Story: Earlier in the weekend, we spent a little time talking about how American Sniper‘s box office projections kept getting adjusted. From $44 million, it had reached $60 million. Mid-day yesterday, it had gone from $60 million to $80 million. Now, we know what the results will be when the weekend is all said and done, and its pretty astonishing.
According to box office analysis from Variety, the film’s first weekend in wide release will take in $90.2 million, making it director Clint Eastwood’s most impressive opening, and signifying that the movie has certainly piqued the curiosity of audiences everywhere. Dan Fellman, head of Warner Bros. domestic distribution, released a statement on the film’s performance. He said, “The movie has become a cultural phenomenon. It tore apart the record book and not by a little. By an enormous amount.”
Likely the most impressive thing about the film’s performance is that its opening box office tally looks far more like a summer popcorn blockbuster rather than a film that explores darker, somewhat depressing topics like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the 2003-2011 Iraq War. Its critical reception has been very positive, and its box office is likely bolstered by its six Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor.
The film’s box office was likely also bolstered by IMAX screenings, where it picked up an additional $11.5 million, which is the viewing format’s biggest-ever opening for an R-rated film.
For more on American Sniper‘s box office performance, keep an eye on GeekNation, and you can also read our review of the film by Eric D. Snider.
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