Friday Box Office: AMERICAN SNIPER Shoots Down January Record with $30.5 Million

     January 17, 2015

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Box office columns are, by nature, given to hyperbole.  But if anything the title of this article is a bit too restrained.  In its first day in wide release, American Sniper did not just ‘shoot down’ the previous single-day record for January – it crushed it.  In fact, the Clint Eastwood drama has now completely redefined the concept of a “January record” by taking in an estimated $30.5 million from 3,555 locations, including $5.3 million from Thursday p.m. screenings.  That is double what Taken 3 earned last Friday and 78% higher than the previous single-day January record of $17.1 million, set be Cloverfield in 2008.  And just to give you some context, $30 million is also significantly higher than any single day The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies put up last month.  At this point, American Sniper should bring in at least $65 million on its first weekend in wide release and $75 million through Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  In other words, expect at least two more records to fall by this time tomorrow.

Full story and Friday’s top five chart after the jump.

american-sniper-poster-internationalPrior to Friday’s stunning returns, American Sniper was expected to open in the $35 -$40 million range.  That would have placed it in the same league as last January’s Lone Survivor, the drama that (along with Zero Dark Thirty) signaled America’s long aversion to films concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was beginning to lift.  Lone Survivor opened the week before the MLK holiday with $37.8 million.  That stood as the second-highest January opening of all time (behind Cloverfield) for exactly one week before Ride Along came out and set a new all-time high for the month with $41.5 million.

That’s the record that American Sniper will be crushing at this time tomorrow.  The film will also give Clint Eastwood his highest opening as a director – by far.  Back in January 2008, Eastwood’s Gran Torino brought in $29.8 million on its first weekend in wide release, or about what American Sniper just claimed in one day.  That, and the fact that American Sniper got so close to January’s all-time weekend record on the strength of Friday grosses alone, is reason enough to break out the box office hyperbole as far as I’m concerned.

American Sniper was not the only major release on Friday, though it was the only film to wildly exceed expectations.  Following the breakout success of 2014’s Ride Along on this weekend last year, Sony/Screen Gems chose the same frame to release The Wedding Ringer, starring Ride Along’s own Kevin Hart.  From 3,003 locations, The Wedding Ringer earned an estimated $7 million on Friday.  That puts the comedy on track for $20 million through Sunday and $25 million for the long holiday weekend.  To be fair, no one expected The Wedding Ringer (a film that bears little resemblance to Ride Along outside of its ‘R’ rating) to get close to its predecessor’s record-setting opening.  On the other hand, most did expect Hart’s latest comedy to hit the $25 million that his About Last Night reboot earned in February of last year.

We’ll have complete details on this weekend’s box office, including the debuts of Paddington and Blackhat, when you check back tomorrow.

 Title Friday Total
1.  American Sniper $30,500,000 $33.9
2.  The Wedding Ringer $7,000,000 $7
3.  Paddington $4,657,000 $4.6
4.  Taken 3 $4,250,000 $53
5.  Selma $2,360,000 $20
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