American Sniper Posts Huge Box Office (UPDATE: Really, Really Huge)

Clint Eastwood's film about Chris Kyle could be his biggest hit

Update: Wow:

Early morning estimates are showing that Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s American Sniper is set to post a FSS of $90.2M with a cume to date of $93.6M.  By tomorrow with the MLK holiday, its cume is looking to raise to $105.2M.

These are Marvel tentpole numbers. For a R-rated, adult-focused drama. I think it's safe to say that American Sniper might (might! There's a long way to go) end up being the most surprising $300-million-grossing film since … Passion of the Christ. 

Huh.

[Original post below.]

Clint Eastwood's new biopic about Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history, is a monster at the box office:

Per late night industry estimates, the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow pic looks to gun down $29.1M in its first expanded Friday, within inches of blowing away Eastwood’s previous weekend high, 2009’s Gran Torino at $29.5M.  Hands down, American Sniper’s Friday booty ranks as the highest grossing day ever charted by a film in January. … 

As of tonight, the outlook for the Eastwood film is $66.8M over three-days and $75.4M over four – easily surpassing the previous January and MLK weekend holiday record set by last year’s Ride Along which made $41.5M and $48.6M respectively over the three and four-days. In sum, American Sniper is an amazing feat for Warner Bros.

That's a really astounding figure. I'm not sure if Box Office Mojo includes platformed releases on this chart (that is, movies that open in a couple of cities before opening wide), but a $66.8 million opening weekend would make it the fifth-highest-grossing R-rated opening of all time:

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Given that American Sniper had a budget of just under $60 million, this is a huge win for Eastwood. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that Sniper will be the highest grossing film in his body of work by the time everything's said and done. Given that the film's at $78.8 million total, it's already his seventh-highest grossing film; assuming a 50 percent weekend-to-weekend drop, it'll be his second-highest-grossing film (and by a fairly wide margin) at the end of next weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 10.18.20 AM

I'm not sure it's wise to assume a 50 percent drop, however. It could hold much better than that. Audiences gave the movie a Cinemascore of A+ and the film nabbed six Oscar nominations this week, meaning that word of mouth will likely be very strong.

It's worth noting that audiences and critics (including yours truly) are a bit out of step on this picture; an A+ from audiences, but just 73 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (though it's 83 percent fresh with top critics). While I understand it's tempting to chalk this up to ideology—and there's a certain amount of fairness to that argument—it's not entirely about politics. American Sniper is a thoroughly competently made film, with a pair of solid performances at its core. But I found it, if not quite dull, a bit flat, a little paint by numbers. I'm sorely tempted to go to the mat for this picture based solely on ideological affinity, but I just can't get my dander up to defend a solid two-and-a-half star picture.