Weekend Box Office (January 23 - 25, 2015)
THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers continued to flock to the multiplexes in record numbers to see the runaway smash American Sniper which once again led the box office by a mile and quickly became the highest-grossing film of Clint Eastwood's 60-year career. The Warner Bros. blockbuster grossed an estimated $64.4M in its second weekend of nationwide play, slipping only 28% in the process, and making as much as the next seven films combined. Fueled by six Academy Award nominations, patriotism, great marketing, and starpower, the R-rated soldier story posted the fourth biggest second weekend gross in box office history for a non-sequel. The only bigger ones in their sophomore frames were The Avengers, Avatar, and Spider-Man which were all mega-budgeted epics. For Sniper to join this type of company is phenomenal.
The Chris Kyle saga has now grossed a total of $200.1M domestically which already beats the $148.1M of Eastwood's top grossing film ever, Gran Torino which he directed and starred in. Playing in 3,705 locations including 333 with IMAX screens, the controversial hit averaged a spectacular $17,372 this weekend. With such a low decline plus continued heat from Oscar buzz and word-of-mouth, American Sniper should be able to soar past $350M and may even challenge the record for the top grossing R-rated film of all-time. That mark is still held by 2004's The Passion of the Christ at $370.3M.
Sniper has sparked much talk in many circles and has its fans and detractors. This type of debate is so lucrative and attracts ticket buyers across several groups, helping grosses swell. Though it is not among the favorites to actually win the Best Picture Oscar, Sniper will continue to enjoy many weeks of being a contender which is good enough to keep smashing box office records and help theaters sell more popcorn. Only two times has any film ever grossed more on a January weekend - Sniper last weekend, and Avatar's $68.5M over the New Year's holiday weekend in 2010 when it was in its third session. Movies just don't draw in this large of a crowd at this time of year.
American Sniper also continued its international roll-out where patriotism is not as big of a factor in pulling in cash. Still it is posting new career highs for Eastwood. This weekend saw openings in 17 new territories including Australia, Hong Kong, and Scandanavia for a $17.6M frame raising the offshore total to $47.5M and the global gross to $247.6M. Five of the world's top ten overseas markets are still to open between now and Oscar night.
Jennifer Lopez anchored her first hit movie in nearly a decade with the thriller The Boy Next Door which took second place with an estimated $15M. Averaging a solid $5,765 from 2,602 locations, the low-budget $4M production earned an opening weekend gross that was nearly four times its production cost. Despite bad reviews, audiences came out for the starpower as well as the effective trailers and TV spots. The R-rated pic took advantage of Lopez's appeal as studio research showed that the audience was 71% female, 51% over 30, and 45% Latino. Moviegoers were not too thrilled with the product and its lackluster B- CinemaScore grade indicates a fast fade ahead for Universal.
Well-reviewed kidpic Paddington fared nicely in its second weekend grossing an estimated $12.4M, off 35%. The Weinstein Co. title has banked an impressive $40.1M to date heading to the $75M neighborhood. Kevin Hart's comedy The Wedding Ringer dropped a reasonable 44% to an estimated $11.6M, also in its sophomore session. Sony has collected $39.7M and should find its way to around $65M.
Liam Neeson's franchise hit Taken 3 dropped 48% to an estimated $7.6M for fifth place and raised its cume to $76.1M for Fox. Breaking $100M domestic seems unlikely for the third and final chapter. Oscar contender The Imitation Game expanded again and saw its weekend take rise 5% to an estimated $7.1M. The Weinstein Co. release has taken in $60.6M surpassing rival The Grand Budapest Hotel to become the second highest-grossing Best Picture nominee after Sniper. Reaching $90M is possible.
The animated film Strange Magic bombed in seventh with an estimated $5.5M from 3,020 sites for a wimpy $1,832 average. Produced and conceptualized by George Lucas, the PG-rated fairy flick earned poor reviews and failed to generate any kind of excitement with families. Plus competition from the well-liked Paddington which was only in its second week was a big factor.
Best Picture contender Selma followed with an estimated $5.5M, down 37%, for a new cume of $39.2M for Paramount which is still an underwhelming figure for an Oscar contender with so much love from both critics and audiences. Over 300,000 tickets have been given away to students for free, paid for by local business leaders, contributing about $2-3M of the gross. Even with many getting to see the acclaimed MLK movie at no cost, Selma looks on track to end its run below such real-life dramas as Ray, Coach Carter, 42, and The Butler. Three weeks into its wide release and its total is still below the $48.2M final of Malcolm X from 22 years ago when ticket prices were half as much.
More bad news for Johnny Depp who has seen his star wattage fade consistently over the past few years. His umpteenth kooky role in Mortdecai drew yawns with a dismal opening of an estimated $4.1M. Averaging an awful 1,558 from 2,648 theaters, the R-rated pricey $60M comedy never excited audiences and attracted bad reviews across the board. Competition for adults was fierce with mainstream films plus Oscar contenders hogging up the spotlight. There was just no reason for interested ticket buyers to choose this option. This follows terrible results for last April's sci-fi flop Transcendence, 2013's big budget disaster Lone Ranger, and 2012's Dark Shadows which also did not impress. Picking better projects will help the star.
Rounding out the top ten was Depp again with his tiny role in Into The Woods which fell 43% to an estimated $3.9M bumping the domestic total to a nice $121.5M.
Below the top ten, Jennifer Aniston's Cake failed to make much of a dent in its debut opening to an estimated $1M from 482 locations for a weak $2,075 average. Generating plenty of attention from Aniston's many talk show appearances as well as her acclaimed performance being snubbed by the Oscars, the R-rated drama could not compete in a marketplace where adults had so many interesting Academy Award-endorsed options to choose from. Plus reviews were not encouraging.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $137.1M which was up 47% from last year when Ride Along stayed at number one with $21.3M; and up 69% from 2013 when Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters debuted on top with $19.7M.
Compared to projections, The Boy Next Door opened a couple of notches above my $13M forecast. Both Strange Magic and Mortdecai debuted below my respective predictions of $12M and $7M.
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Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Project Almanac, Black or White, and The Loft all open over Super Bowl weekend.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: January 25, 2015 at 3:30PM ET
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