'American Sniper' Dominates Social Media, Setting Sights on Possible January Box Office Records

on January 13, 2015

sniper.pngBy Shawn Robbins

Clint Eastwood's American Sniper has already impressed in its four-location platform run, generating over $3.2 million exclusively from Los Angeles/New York theaters since opening on Christmas Day. Now, the film is on pace to become director Eastwood's best opener yet, and likely one of the best ever January debuts.

At the center of the film's momentum is Bradley Cooper's widely praised performance based on the true story of Chris Kyle, known as "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history." Kyle's autobiographical book, on which the film is based, has been a frequent bestseller since its 2012 publishing. Warner Bros. also used the holiday season to promote the film's positive critical reactions during short pre-trailer ads in movie theaters, as well as TV spots. Translation: awareness is high.

Cooper, once known for starring mostly in comedies, has gained a lot of critical and audience respect in recent years for taking on bolder and more dramatic roles in the likes of Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and now, American Sniper.

Sniper is also expanding into wide release this Friday with more online buzz than the director's films are known for. Although an icon for any generation, Eastwood's target audience has typically been those over the age of 45-50 (for example, 71 percent of Jersey Boys' opening weekend patrons were 50 and up, according to Warner Bros.). As a filmmaker, his highest grossing wide opener so far was Gran Torino's $29.5 million in January 2009.

Nevertheless, American Sniper has ranked among the top two most-mentioned films on Twitter for nearly two weeks (averaging about 30,000 daily tweets this week), reached nearly 60,000 audience anticipation votes from the Rotten Tomatoes/Flixster community, and accumulated 625,000 Facebook fans through January 13. The latter figure is a stunning 45 percent increase (about 219,000 new "likes") from seven days ago, leading all other films during that time.

All told, the war drama is significantly outpacing the pre-release tracking trends of Lone Survivor ($37.9 million wide opening last January), Captain Phillips ($25.7 million), Zero Dark Thirty ($24.4 million wide opening), and Act of Valor ($24.5 million). Back in January 2002, Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down also posted a strong $28.6 million wide release.

Last year's Ride Along set the January and Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend opening records with $41.5 million 3-day and $48.6 million 4-day tallies, respectively. Will American Sniper best those? The odds continue looking better and better with each passing day.

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The American Sniper trailer:

Tags: Black Hawk Down, Act of Valor, Lone Survivor, Captain Phillips, Zero Dark Thirty, Gran Torino, American Sniper, Warner Bros., Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, north-america

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