“American Sniper” is hitting the target with U.S. moviegoers, with early estimates showing that Clint Eastwood’s Iraq War drama could reach as high as $60 million in the Friday-Monday holiday weekend, easily eclipsing the director’s previous opening record of $29.5 million for 2008’s “Gran Torino.” “Sniper” also looks to score the biggest January debut in box office history, topping the $41.5 million set by last year’s “Ride Along.”
Warner Bros. cautioned that its early estimates were closer to $55 million. That’s still far above recent forecasts that had been in the $44 million-$48 million range for the four days.
Warner Bros. reported a strong $5.3 million from Thursday night shows in the U.S. on the heels of receiving six Oscar nominations including best picture and actor for Bradley Cooper. Moviegoers were flocking Friday to see the film with an opening day of $20 million-plus.
“American Sniper,” co-produced and co-financed by Village Roadshow, had already racked up $3.4 million playing just four theaters since Christmas. Ticket sales for the biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle are brisk, with Fandango reporting that “American Sniper” is the top January wide-release opener with sales 264% higher on Thursday than at the same point in time on Wednesday.
Universal’s cyber-terrorist tale “Blackhat” is heading in the opposite direction amid indications that “American Sniper” may be attracting much of its target audience. Michael Mann’s latest movie opened modestly with $179,000 at late shows on Thursday in 1,755 theaters and appears destined for a quiet $7 million from 2,567 theaters over the four-day weekend.
TWC is pegging its early estimate somewhat lower in the low to mid 20s. “Paddington,” boosted by stellar reviews, was heading for about $6 million on Friday but should see a major boost Saturday to around $10 million at 3,003 theaters.
“The Wedding Ringer” grossed $800,000 at 2,354 locations on Thursday night and is on track for a healthy opening in the $28 million to $30 million range for the four-day opening weekend.
Starring Kevin Hart as a best man for hire and directed by Jeremy Garelick, the movie expands to 3,003 on Friday. “Ringer” also stars Josh Gad, cost $23 million to produce and solidifies Hart’s star status after “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man.”
Fox’s “Taken 3” looks likely to finish fourth with about $20 million for the four days after winning last weekend with $39.2 million.
Paramount’s “Selma,” which received a Best Picture Oscar nod on Thursday, should be able to taken in at least $10 million over the four days — nearly matching $11.3 million take from last weekend, its first in wide release.