Friday Box Office Analysis

By Kim Hollis

January 17, 2015

Bradley Cooper - now nominated for Best Actor three years in a row.

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To put this opening weekend in perspective, consider that previous films set around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been successful, but nowhere near American Sniper’s level. Lone Survivor, which went wide in January of 2014, debuted with $37.8 million. Zero Dark Thirty earned $24.4million in its opening weekend. The Hurt Locker, a previous Academy Award winner for Best Picture, earned $17 million total.

When you put American Sniper up against Best Picture nominees since 2000, its debut becomes even more impressive. It should open higher than such stalwarts as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($73.3 million), Up ($68.1 million), Inception ($62.8 million) , The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ($62 million), Gravity ($55.8 million) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ($47 million). It has a chance to open higher than Avatar ($77 million). If American Sniper pulls that off, it means that the only Best Picture nominee in history to have a bigger opening weekend will be Toy Story 3, which earned $110.3 million. To say that this debut is unprecedented is an understatement. Oscar watchers should be thrilled that a little bit of excitement has been thrown their way, as the upcoming ceremony was looking to be awfully predictable up to now.

There were other movies this weekend, though they admittedly feel like afterthoughts as they sit in the shadow of the behemoth. The Kevin Hart/Josh Gad bro comedy The Wedding Ringer debuted with $7 million, a number that’s probably a bit disappointing for Screen Gems considering that Hart had been the driving force behind a good number of hits in the last 12 months. During this same weekend last year, Ride Along opened to $41.5 million, and About Last Night and Think Like a Man Too debuted with $25.6 million and $29.2 million, respectively. The Wedding Ringer won’t even match About Last Night’s first weekend total, as it should come in with around $20.1 million.


The glowingly reviewed kids’ film Paddington offered a family option in a pretty dry market, and earned $4.7 million on Friday as a result. That number is very similar to the amount that The Nut Job earned just a year ago on the same weekend ($4.8 million). It’s fair to expect a similar multiplier, which would give Paddington a Friday-to-Sunday total of $19 million.

Our final new opener was the Michael Mann misfire Blackhat. It earned just $1.4 million yesterday and will be all but forgotten after this weekend, as it should manage about $4.2 million for the three-day portion of the holiday frame.

Holdovers are led by Taken 3, which fell a whopping 71% from last Friday. The series is going to wind down in pretty rough fashion despite a decent debut. Its weekend total should be about $13 million. Selma had a rough morning when Oscar nominations were announced despite its Best Picture nod, since its only other nomination was for Best Song. It’s down 37% from last weekend and should come in with $8.2 million from Friday-to-Sunday.

Projected Estimates for the Top Ten (Three-Day)
Estimated Gross
1 American Sniper 76.0
2 The Wedding Ringer 20.1
3 Paddington 19.0
4 Taken 3 13.0
5 Selma 8.2
6 The Imitation Game 6.4
7 Into the Woods 6.3
8 Unbroken 4.4
9 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies 4.3
10 Blackhat 4.2

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