‘American Sniper’ Targets Record Jan. $105.2M

A+ CinemaScore across the board among males, females and over/under 25.  Everyone always knew the film was going to be the highest opening for an MLK release, beating last year’s opening record set by Kevin Hart‘s Ride Along ($41.5M 3-day, $48.6M 4-day). Audience make-up was 57% guys/43% women with 63% over 25. American Sniper also earned the best take for an R-rated IMAX film with an estimated $11.5M over the four-day, beating Fox’s Prometheus, which made $9M.  

American Sniper’s per theater: an amazing $25,374 over three days and $29,592 over four-days. 
While the competition did well this weekend against the titan American Sniper, some executives griped that the Eastwood film shaved off dollars off their initial projections.

“It felt like we opened against a Marvel movie,” said one studio executive about Sniper‘s presence. 

“The people portrayed in American Sniper – these are real-life heroes to people in the same way that Marvel characters are heroes to fanboys. But it’s the Marvel concept for adults.”

Selma MLK Jr Oscar snubGiven its prime spot on MLK weekend, Paramount’s Selma held very well, bolstered by a best picture Oscar nomination (it also received one for best song) with the studio reporting a 26% dip, to an $8.3M three-day and a $10.3M four-day. The movie’s domestic cume by tomorrow will stand at $27.96M.

While this would have seemed the prime weekend to go wide, Paramount smartly did so a week earlier, counter-programming Taken 3and dodging the market power of The Wedding Ringeranother African-American-oriented movie that, like Selma, drew mostly females.

Said Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman on Sniper’s success: “The film played from small towns to big cities, red to blue states. The story touched on so many things dear to the American public – patriotism, service to your country. It hit that core.”

Warner Bros. saw an early cut of the film last year. VFX weren’t even ready, but execs were blown away. Commenting on why the studio chose to go wide in January versus December, Fellman said, “It gave us an opportunity to let the movie breathe.”

Warner Bros. implemented a very textured and layered marketing campaign for Sniper. In a time when an even a low-budget political comedy can create an international furor, Warner Bros. always felt they had a film that cut through the politics of war.

“It can be a very compelling, often sad or cathartic experience for people” said Sue Kroll, Warner’s president of worldwide marketing and international distribution.  “The film completely connects with people at this point in time in our culture. With the horrors of war every day in the news, this film hits closer to home.”

taya kyleThe trailers and TV spots were specifically made to emphasize the emotional tones of Chris Kyle’s story. While some focused on the intense scene featuring Kyle taking a slow aim at an Iraqi woman and child, 60-second TV spots featured soundbites from Chris Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle, actress Sienna Miller and screenwriter/executive producer Jason Hall talking about NAVY seal hero Chris Kyle. 

There were longer featurettes on line as well.

“With everything that was going on, they made people stop and take notice,” said Kroll.

Further making American Sniper compelling and more real were Taya Kyle’s eloquent interviews with such outlets as Fox News and TODAY. Screenwriter Hall’s experiences resonated with trade publications during awards season regarding the film’s path to the screen; how he was working on the script prior to Kyle’s murder – and how Chris Kyle’s murder on a Texas gun range impacted the story.

The studio tapped Glover Park Group, a leading DC-based marketing and PR group with deep experience in government affairs work. They created the military press program and screenings.

“It’s always tricky when you have a movie that’s about war, but after the first screening, we were all moved at the studio and quickly rolled it out on a limited basis before the end of the year,” Kroll said. 

“The movie is a soldier’s story and the universality of the toll that war takes on the soldier and those he left behind. That perspective in American Sniper differentiates it from other war films. It has made it more mainstream and relatable. And more emotional.”

In second place, Sony’s Screen Gems launched their fourth straight hit with more than $20M in The Wedding Ringerstarring Kevin Hart. The studio is reporting the film at $21M in 3,003 hubs with per theater of $6,993 and a four-day take of $25M. The crowd was 58% female, and mostly young, with 49% under 30. Among R-rated January comedy openings, The Wedding Ringer is the best, beating Paramount’s 2011 kinky romantic comedy No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. That film posted a $19.65M weekend.

Paddington in third is the first title to go out through the TWC/Dimension label, a combined brand intended for higher-end commercial fare. The $55M budgeted Canal Plus production, which TWC/Dimension acquired domestic on, played very strong in Middle America and suburbia, grossing a studio-reported $19.287M for the FSS and a $25.6M for the four-day, drawing 60% women, and  42% of the crowd parents with kids.

Legendary’s Blackhat distributed by Universal, the frame’s fourth wide bow, grossed $4M per the studio in 2,567 locales. Industry estimates below see the film slotting 11th for FSS. The crowd for the Michael Mann cyber-thriller was 59% male and 18% under age 25. The studio wasn’t on the hook for P&A, and the film was around before Universal’s deal with Legendary went into place.  It’s an R-rated adult-male drama, and when it was placed on the schedule, no one, including Universal, saw American Sniper coming around the corner.

20th Century Fox’s Taken 3 held the best it could against American Sniper with a studio reported $14M three-day at 3,594 and a cume of $62.8M. While that’s a 64% drop from its opening, again peg it to American Sniper picking off male moviegoers in particular.

clint eastwood

Deadline’s top 10 films per industry estimates show the three-day and four-day weekend as follows:
1). American Sniper (WB), 3,555 theaters (+3,551)/ $30.4M Fri./ $34.7M Sat. (+14%)/ $22.9M Sun. (-34%)/ 3-Day cume: $88M (+15,085%)/4-Day cume:$99.1M /Total cume: $102.5M/ Wk 4

2). The Wedding Ringer (Sony), 3,003 theaters/ $6.99M Fri./ $8.4M Sat. (+20%)/ $5.2M Sun. (-37%)/ 3-Day cume: $20.7M/ 4-Day cume: $24.6M /Wk 1
3). Paddington (TWC), 3,303 theaters / $4.6M Fri./ $8.3M Sat. (+80%)/ $M Sun. (-%)/ 3-Day cume: $19.3M / 4-Day cume: $24.1M /Wk 1
4). Taken 3 (Fox), 3,594 theaters (0)/$4.2M Fri/ $6.6M Sat. (+55%)/ $3.2M Sun. (-51%)/ 3-Day cume: $14M (-62%)/4-Day cume: $16.9M /Total cume: $65.6M/ Wk 2
5). Selma (Par), 2,235 theaters (+56) /$2.3M Fri./ $3.7M Sat. (+56%)/ $2.2M Sun. (-41%)/ 3-Day cume: $8.4M (-26%)/4-Day cume: $10.3M /Total cume: $27.9M / Wk 4
6). The Imitation Game (TWC), 1,611 theaters (+45) / $1.8M Fri. / $3.2M Sat. (+71%)/ $2M Sun. (-38%)/ 3-Day cume: $7.3M (-2%)/4-Day cume: $8.9M /Total cume: $51.6M / Wk 8
7). Into The Woods (DIS), 2,758 theaters (-75) /$1.6M Fri./ $3M Sat. (+80%)/ $2.1M Sun. (-30%)/ 3-Day cume: $6.8M (-29%)/4-Day cume: $8.9M /Total cume: $116.7M / Wk 4
8). The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (WB), 2,220 theaters (-1182)/$1.1M Fri./ $2.2M Sat. (+89%)/ $1.4M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-Day cume: $4.8M (-49%) /4-Day cume: $5.9M /Total cume: $245.6M/ Wk 5
9). Unbroken (UNI), 2,602 theaters (-699) / $1.2M Fri. (-51%)/ $1.9M Sat. (+56%)/ $1M Sun. (-47%)/ 3-Day cume: $4.2M (-49%)/4-Day cume: $5M/Total cume: $109.4M / Wk 4
10). Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (FOX), 2,437 theaters (-934) / $859K Fri./ $1.7M Sat. (+105%)/ $1.3M Sun. (-25%)/ 3-Day cume: $3.9M(-41%)/4-Day cume: $5.2M /Total cume: $106.5M / Wk 5
11). Blackhat (UNI), 2,567 theaters / $1.3M Fri./ $1.5M Sat. (+15%)/ $983K Sun. (-37%)/ 3-Day cume: $3.7M/4-Day cume: $4.8M / Wk 1
Birdman (FSL) 471 theaters (+243)/$403K Fri./ $715K Sat. (+77%)/ $443K Sun. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $1.5M (+160%)/4-day cume: $1.8M/Total cume: $28.5M/Wk 14
Wild (FSL), 764 theaters (-522)/ $398K Fri./ $651K Sat. (+64%)/ $408K Sun. (-37%) / 3-day cume: $1.4M (-47%)/4-day cume: $1.7M/Total cume: $33.1M / Wk 7
Spare Parts (LGF) 440 theaters/$397K Fri. / $516K Sat. (+30%)/ $413K Sun. (-20%) /3-day cume: $1.37M/$4-day cume: $1.7M/ Wk 1 1
Foxcatcher (SPC), 759 theaters (+522)/ $274K Fri./$449K Sat. (+64%)/ $276K Sun. (-37%) / 3-day cume: $979K (+82%)/4-day cume: $1.1M/Total cume: $10M / Wk 10
The Theory of Everything (FOC), 509 theaters (+101)/ $247K Fri./ $434K Sat. (+75%)/ $282K Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $950K (+41%)/4-day cume: $1.1M/Total cume: $27.5M / Wk 11
Whiplash (SPC) 189 theaters (+120)/$92K Fri. /$172K Sat. (+87%)/ $107K Sun. (-38%) /3-day cume: $362K (+154%)/4-day cume: 425K/Total cume: $6.6M/Wk 15
Boyhood (IFC), 136 theaters (+116) / $55K Fri. /$103K Sat. (+87%)/ $64K Sun. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $222K /4-day cume: $264K /Total cume: $24.6M/ Wk 28
Still Alice (SPC) 12 theaters/$52K Fri. / $89K Sat. (+71%)/ $65K Sun. (-28%) /3-day cume: $206K/$4-day cume: $249K/ Wk 1
Two Days, One Night (IFC) 15 theaters (+10) / $26K Fri. /$48K Sat. (+85%)/ $31K Sun. (-35%) /3-Day: $105K (+158%)/4-day cume: $129K/ Total cume: $300K / Wk 4
Grand Budapest Hotel (FSL), 46 theaters (+30) /$6K Fri. /$16K Sat. (+166%)/ $11K Sun. (-31%) / 3-day cume: $33K /4-day cume: $40K / Total cume: $59.3M / Wk 46

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