Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
January 20, 2015
Kim Hollis: American Sniper. WTF? Seriously, W.T.F.?
Edwin Davies: WTF indeed. This is obviously a stunning, unprecedented result in many ways. We've seen records fall time and again, particularly in the last decade as big opening weekends have become more important, but I can't think of a time when a record was not only beaten, but completely obliterated. This makes Ride Along's record-breaking performance on the same weekend last year look positively quaint and subdued.
As to why this happened, I think there are a swirling bunch of factors which combined to create a perfect storm. The film performed astonishingly well in limited release, which made headlines and raised anticipation amongst film fans. Then it got nominated for six Oscars, which probably brought a lot of awards watchers in to the mix, as well as casual audiences who only go a few times a year, usually to see the Best Picture nominees. Then you have the marketing, which sold the film as an apolitical account of one man's experience of war much like Lone Survivor last year. It had the added bonus of being based on a figure who has attained a somewhat legendary stature for his story (even if the details have been heavily disputed) so there was a pretty broad awareness of Chris Kyle's story.
What this amounts to is that American Sniper crossed a lot of demographic lines. It appealed to conservatives with its pro-military, love the soldier angle, but also had hints of unease about the Iraq War that would appeal to liberals. It's a prestigious awards contender directed by four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood and starring three-time nominee Bradley Cooper, but it's also a straight ahead action movie directed by action legend Clint Eastwood and starring movie star Bradley Cooper. It's a film that appeals to serious film fans and to the sort of people who only see three or four films a year. It appealed to patriots and skeptics. It had a lot going against it prior to the weekend - the January release date, the poor track record for Iraq War films, Eastwood's spotty record lately - which probably lowered expectations, but it clearly had a lot of things on its side that allowed it to overcome them.
Brett Ballard-Beach: This opened to The Passion of the Christ type numbers and not far off from the all time record holder for R-rated opening weekend: The Matrix Reloaded. Between this and The Hangover Part II, Bradley Cooper has two of the three biggest openings in that category. I think the reasons Edwin gave are all good and valid. What most shocks me is that this is now the biggest opening of Eastwood's 45 year directorial career and will be the highest grossing even adjusting for inflation, I imagine. Since his highest grossing films are all ones that had legs because of an adult audience that doesn't rush out, and because of word of mouth that kept them afloat him tapping the zeitgeist, this result is even more astonishing.