Best Picture Nominees

American Sniper” is nearing the $250 million mark after picking up $31.8 million to set a new Super Bowl weekend record.

The previous high-water mark for football’s big weekend was “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour,” which nabbed $31.2 million when it premiered in 2008.

If it continues on this torrid clip, Clint Eastwood’s biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle could challenge “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” as the highest-grossing 2014 release and will pass “The Matrix Reloaded” to become the second-biggest R-rated release in history. It has earned $248.9 million — an unbelievable result for an adult drama about such hard-hitting topics as war and its psychological effects.

“These are superhero movie numbers,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “People are hearing about this movie, talking about it and I imagine it’s leading them to see it multiple times to get to these type of numbers.”

“American Sniper” dwarfed all challengers for the third consecutive weekend. Among the competition, family film “Paddington” was best able to carve out a niche for itself, earning $8.7 million and pushing its domestic total past the $50 million mark.

Newcomer “Project Almanac” finished in third place, with a modest $8.5 million debut across 2,893 locations. The Paramount release centers on a group of teenagers who make a time machine and carries a $12 million production budget. Fifty five percent of “Project Almanac’s” audience was male and 63% was under 25. It appears that “American Sniper’s” success took a chunk out of the film’s receipts.

“It’s difficult when there’s an unanticipated movie in the marketplace setting records,” said Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution and marketing at Paramount. “It makes it hard to break through and break out.”

Relativity’s race drama “Black or White” had to fight for the adult audience with “American Sniper,” picking up $6.5 million from 1,823 locations, and a fourth place finish. That’s on the low end of estimates that had the film debuting in the $7 million to $9 million range. Star Kevin Costner helped finance the film about a grandfather fighting for custody of his African-American grandchild. The studio hopes that the film’s A- CinemaScore rating means it will be able to build on word-of-mouth in the coming weeks.

Fifth place was held by Universal’s micro-budget thriller, “The Boy Next Door,” which picked up $6.1 million. It has made just shy of $25 million since debuting last weekend.

HBO made a wide-screen splash, releasing previously aired episodes of “Game of Thrones” in 205 Imax theaters, and picking up $1.5 million in the process. To incentivize fans of the fantasy series to turn out, the network included a preview of the show’s fifth season.

The weekend’s other major newcomer, Open Road’s “The Loft,” failed to make much noise, generating $2.9 million in receipts from 1,841 sites. James Marsden, Karl Urban and others star in the film about a group of friends who discover a dead body and their hunt for the killer in their midst. The film was evenly divided among males and females, with 53% of the audience comprised of ticket buyers over the age of 25.

“Clearly we would have hoped for a little bit more,” said Jason Cassidy, chief marketing officer at Open Road Films. “We won’t be adding screens next week. It will be about holding what we have and trying to maintain some legs.”

“The Wedding Ringer,” the Kevin Hart best man comedy, grossed an estimated $5.7 million over the weekend, bringing its total to $48.1 million and securing sixth place on the charts. Seventh place finisher “The Imitation Game” picked up $5.2 million and has made $68 million.

“Boyhood,” one of the frontrunners for a best picture Oscar, capitalized on its awards buzz to pick up $89,050, pushing it past $25 million.

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