Warner Bros. reports that American Sniper brought in an outstanding $30.5 million on Friday, including $5.3 million from Thursday night shows and $3.1 million from IMAX shows. That easily usurps the previous January opening day record of $17.2 million by 2008's Cloverfield (not to mention director Clint Eastwood's previous best $9.6 million first wide release day by Gran Torino in 2009). Looking at all movies, the previous January record for a single-day gross was held by Avatar ($25.8 million).
Following weeks of stellar box office results over ($3.3 million) from just 4 theaters in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas, Sniper's momentum snowballed through social media power (trending above all films during that time on Twitter and Facebook), strong reviews and word of mouth (particularly surrounding Bradley Cooper's performance as Chris Kyle), and of course, Thursday's Best Picture and Best Actor Oscar nominations.
To further put this opening in perspective, last year's Lone Survivor expanded into wide release with a $14.4 million opening day. Early word of mouth appears strong for Sniper with an 86 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience/Flixster score (on par with Lone Survivor's 85 percent one day after its expansion), while the film also received an excellent "A+" CinemaScore. BoxOffice projects the biopic will take in a stunning $76 million over the 3-day weekend and $89 million for the 4-day Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. The previous record-holder was last year's Ride Along ($41.5 million/$48.6 million). Higher totals could be in store when all is said and done, but competition from NFL games on Sunday will likely have an impact. With a generally unexpected opening of this size, historical comparisons may be somewhat unreliable.
Also posting a strong debut of its own yesterday was The Wedding Ringer, earning $7.0 million in second place. The latest Kevin Hart comedy from Sony is on track to cover its $23 million production budget by the end of opening weekend, making this yet another win for the comedian's box office drawing power. The film's early RT/Flixster audience score is 78 percent, similar to Ride Along (79 percent). BoxOffice is projecting $20.5 million 3-day and $23.5 million 4-day frames, which would make it the best R-rated comedy opener in January history.
Opening in third place on Friday was The Weinstein Company's Paddington, taking in an excellent $4.7 million and making it the studio's best animated debut in their history (topping Escape from Planet Earth's $3.7 million first day). Based on the popular children's books, Paddington has garnered a fantastic 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes critics' score from over 100 reviews, while the audience score stands at a very encouraging 87 percent this morning. BoxOffice projects $18.7 million for the 3-day frame and $24.8 million over the 4-day. Expect solid legs in the weeks to come as families turn out for the beloved property.
In fourth place yesterday, Taken 3 slipped 71 percent from opening day last week to $4.25 million. The franchise sequel has earned $53 million domestically to-date. Look for a $13.8 million 3-day weekend and $16.5 million 4-day frame.
Selma took fifth place with $2.36 million yesterday, bringing its total to $20 million thus far. BoxOffice projects $8.9 million for the 3-day and $11.8 million for the 4-day.
Meanwhile, The Imitation Game added $1.88 million on its first Friday post-Oscar nominations. The film's total stands at $45.5 million and should earn $7 million and $8.6 million over the 3- and 4-day frames, respectively.
Unfortunately, Blackhat was overshadowed by the slew of new releases as it brought in just $1.4 million yesterday. The timely cybercrime flick is expected to tally $4.1 million for the 3-day and $4.7 million over the 4-day.
Top 10 -- 3-Day / 4-Day Weekend Estimates:
1. American Sniper ($76 million / $89 million)
2. The Wedding Ringer ($20.5 million / $23.5 million)
3. Paddington ($18.7 million / $24.8 million)
4. Taken 3 ($13.8 million / $16.5 million)
5. Selma ($8.9 million / $11.8 million)
6. Into the Woods ($7.7 million / $10.6 million)
7. The Imitation Game ($7.0 million / $8.6 million)
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ($4.9 million / $6.0 million)
9. Unbroken ($4.2 million / $5.0 million)
10. Blackhat ($4.1 million / $4.7 million)