There are certain movies you can count on to have big opening weekends at the box office, such as The Avengers and The Hunger Games. But American Sniper?
The Clint Eastwood-directed war movie about Texan Chris Kyle, who was the most prolific sniper in American military history, exceeded all expectations, taking in $90.2 million Friday through Sunday. It will likely go over $100 million by the end of the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
The movie about Texan Chris Kyle is now this year's highest grossing Best Picture nominee at the Oscars.
By taking in the amount of money usually reserved for superhero movies, American Sniper shattered multiple records, including best January opening weekend, best Friday box office in January and biggest R-rated IMAX opening ever. It is now this year's highest grossing Best Picture nominee at the Oscars, and it has made more than fellow nominees Birdman, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash combined.
Although industry analysts are shocked at American Sniper's huge box office, it was likely the perfect storm of events that led to the payday. For one, it was the only Best Picture nominee to be released wide following the 2015 Oscar nominations. Although other films were re-released, it was the only one that most people across America could now see for the first time.
It's also unapologetically pro-American, with an old-fashioned story arc that has little need for modern politics, an idea that obviously appeals to many. And it had a boffo marketing campaign, with an ultra-tense initial trailer, followed by commercials that emphasized the family aspect of the film.
Given its performance this weekend and high audience rating, American Sniper could go on to take in around $250 million or more. If it does, Bradley Cooper — whom we saw in Plano in advance of the release — will have starred in three of the five top-grossing R-rated movies of all time, The Hangover and The Hangover Part II being the others.