LOS ANGELES – Hollywood is prone to superlatives, but this one is truly jaw dropping: "American Sniper," which arrived in wide release Friday, is expected to sell $105.2 million in tickets in North America over the holiday weekend.
Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper" joins another unexpected hit, Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken," in turning out a conservative, heartland crowd that surprised Hollywood in its size. "Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico — all absolutely massive," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros., which released "American Sniper."
"American Sniper," which received reviews that were strong but not euphoric, was adapted from a bestselling autobiography of the same name by Chris Kyle, a member of the Navy SEALs who was credited with enough confirmed kills in Iraq and Afghanistan to rank as the most deadly sniper in U.S. history. Kyle was killed in 2013 at a Texas gun range by an emotionally troubled veteran he was trying to help.
The film gave Hollywood its biggest January opening ever, beating "Avatar," which took in $74.4 million in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. Eastwood's film ranks as the largest R-rated release in history for Imax, where the film took in $11.5 million, beating the previous record-holder, "Prometheus." Making "American Sniper" look even better: "Blackhat," a cyberthriller from the director Michael Mann, bombed in its first weekend. "Blackhat," which cost an estimated $70 million to make, is expected to take in $4.6 million over the weekend, according to Rentrak, which compiles box office data.
Warner, which produced "American Sniper" with Village Roadshow for $58 million, initially planned to release the film next Christmas. Eastwood, 84, typically makes one film a year and his 2014 entry was "Jersey Boys."
But when Warner saw rough "American Sniper" footage last summer, it moved the film's release to December 2014.
New York Times