“American Sniper” is proving to be a lethal box office force.
Clint Eastwood’s Iraq War drama grossed a spectacular $30.5 million on Friday — the biggest single-day take in January. It looks to haul a record-breaking $80 million-plus this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, easily overtaking last year’s “Ride Along,” which launched to $41.5 million, as the highest-grossing January debut of all time.
The pic, which is expected to make more than $68 million by Sunday, is also obliterating Eastwood’s previous opening record of $29.5 million for 2008’s “Gran Torino.”
The new projection is nearly double recent forecasts that were as low as $42 million for the four-day weekend. Warner Bros. is downplaying estimates and shooting for $65 million this holiday weekend.
That would also mark one of the largest openings of all time for a film of its size. The drama was co-produced and co-financed by Village Roadshow for less than $60 million.
“American Sniper” also broke records last month in its Christmas Day debut, reeling in $240,212 from just four venues — smashing the all-time record for a limited release under 10 screens on Christmas. It had already collected $3.4 million in the U.S. since then.
“American Sniper” is based on the true story of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), one of the most lethal snipers in American history. The film received six Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for Cooper, on Thursday.
Sony’s “The Wedding Ringer” was runner-up on Friday with $7 million. Although the comedy, starring Kevin Hart as a best man for hire, looks to finish the weekend strongly with $20 million to $21 million, it will likely fall to third place come Monday behind another new release, “Paddington.”
“Ringer” stands to earn between $23 million and $24 million by MLK Day — on pace for the top R-rated comedy opening in January.
The film, which also stars Josh Gad, cost $23 million to produce. Both actors have been on a hot streak of late, with Gad voicing Olaf in “Frozen” and Hart starring in the recent hits “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man.”
The Weinstein Co.’s “Paddington” is hot on “The Wedding Ringer’s” heels. The talking-bear comedy opened to $4.7 million on Friday in the U.S. and stands to earn $19 million by Sunday, climbing to No. 2 on Monday with $25 million. The pic is based on Michael Bond’s celebrated “Paddington Bear” series.
Holdovers rounded out the top five.
Last weekend’s winner, “Taken 3,” finished fourth with $4.3 million, eyeing $17.5 million in four days. The Fox sequel will have earned $66 million by the end of the holiday weekend.
Another best picture Oscar contender, “Selma,” made an estimated $2.4 million on Friday and can take in $10.5 million by weekend’s end. This is an impressive feat considering that it’s down just 13% from last weekend, its first in wide release.
Legendary’s, “Blackhat,” which is being distributed by Universal, landed far behind in 11th place. The Chris Hemsworth-starrer opened to $1.4 million en route to a long weekend of $4.8 million. This is below already modest estimates of $7 million as “American Sniper” is likely attracting its target audience.