American Sniper Downs Johnny Depp and George Lucas (at the Box Office)
By John Hamann
January 25, 2015
What a difference an American Sniper makes. Without the Clint Eastwood release, the overall box office would be bottoming out, as Mortdecai and Strange Magic flopped badly this weekend. Instead, overall first quarter box office results are coming up roses.
Our number one film by a mile is once again American Sniper, as in wins another weekend by a ridiculously large margin after taking last weekend by an almost $70 million margin. After earning $90 million over three days last weekend, $107 million over four, and $132 million since going wide, one had to wonder if American Sniper might drop drastically this weekend simply due to burnout. However, this movie is now a cultural phenomenon, with the conservative right embracing it for its accurate portrayal of the military and the left taking it in as an Oscar hopeful (or to eviscerate it). So, the Bradley Cooper Iraq war film held well despite three new wide releases coming on the scene.
American Sniper earned $18.3 million on Friday night, off a ridiculously low 40% from its previous Friday of $30.3 million. Why is a 40% drop ridiculously low? Sniper earned $5.3 million from Thursday night previews that get added into last Friday’s number. That means that last weekend’s "true Friday" was about $25 million, which lowers the Friday-to-Friday drop to only 27%.
Similar successes are not easy to find. The comparison that analysts want to make is to The Passion of the Christ, which had a first Friday of $22.9 million before falling 40% in its second Friday to $13.7 million. A better analog is Avatar, which had the meat of its run in January, although its numbers are skewed by its second Christmas Day falling on Friday. Its opening Friday was $26.8 million, and it fell 14% to $23 million on Christmas Day in 2007.
Another example is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Back on November 16, 2001, the original Harry Potter film had a first Friday of $32.3 million. It fell 29% on its second Friday to $23 million and went on to earn $317.6 million domestically.
Over the rest of the weekend, American Sniper also held nicely, as older audiences are attending - and not necessarily on a Friday or Saturday night. Over its second weekend of wide release, American Sniper earned another massive haul of $64.4 million, dropping a relatively tiny 28% in the process. The weekend take is the eighth biggest ever for a second weekend.
The question now is where American Sniper ends up. It hit $200 million mark today, eight days after going wide. The $300 million mark is certainly achievable, and $350 million will be dependent on how it holds next weekend against what looks to be very little competition. For now, American Sniper has earned $200.1 million domestically, and has another $30 million from overseas theaters.
The Boy Next Door is second this weekend but is almost $50 million behind American Sniper. The Jennifer Lopez/Blumhouse Productions movie didn’t have to do much this weekend, as it cost only $4 million to make. The Boy Next Door took in $5.7 million on Friday night (a half-million coming from Thursday previews). Given the production cost, that was more than enough for The Boy Next Door, as even a 2.0 weekend multiplier would put this one into the black for its domestic run.