Multiple Oscar nominations and powerful word of mouth since its limited release in the speciality market have propelled Clint Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper’ to a stunning $30.5m Friday after going wide at the North American box office. It’s the highest ever single day January tally in the box office’s history and sets up an astonishing $80m+ haul over the four-day Martin Luther King weekend; making a mockery of market and studio forecasts.
There’s a close battle for second place between two of the weekend’s wide releases. Kevin Hart’s R-rated comedy ‘The Wedding Ringer’ established an early lead on Friday with a solid $6.9m but the Michael Bond adaptation, ‘Paddington’ grossed a higher than predicted $4.6m and has the advantage of family audiences during the remainder of the session. Both films have strong word of mouth – an ‘A-‘ cinemaScore for ‘The Wedding Ringer’ and an even better ‘A’ for ‘Paddington’ – and they should earn $25m apiece over the four days.
The other wide newcomer, ‘Blackhat’, has bombed. Michael Mann’s crime drama could only muster $1.3m on Friday and will barely clear $5m during the session against a $70m production budget. And with audiences awarding it a ‘C-‘ cinemaScore and critics agreeing – 31% on RT – there seems no hope for a recovery.
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