Well, apparently the Red State audiences of the movie world are far more undernourished than many of us thought. Universal’s “Lone Survivor” was a jingoistic military drama that performed well in 2013, but its numbers now pale in comparison to the unbelievable opening weekend wide-release debut for Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” When was the last time a movie spent two weeks in limited release and then opened in wide release on its third weekend to a massive $90 million? It feels totally unprecedented. Then again, the writing was on the wall. Warner Bros.’ military drama smashed major records in its two weekends of limited release (it now holds the record for the 2nd highest limited release per screen average ever) and on Friday, the movie grossed an amazing $30 million alone. So Eastwood’s $90.2 million opening weekend is now the 40th highest opening weekend debut ever, which doesn’t sounds that groundbreaking, but it’s the highest grossing debut for a drama of all time. To contrast, while ‘Sniper’ did $90 million in three days, “The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies” grossed $89.1 million in its first five days of release (which had the benefit of 3D surcharge too). Given the movie had an R-rating, this massive $90 mil haul is also now the 2nd highest grossing R-Rated opening ever, just behind “The Matrix Reloaded.”
Surely, those six Oscar nominations didn’t hurt, and Bradley Cooper being named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine is not a strike against the movie either, but like we said, it was already doing gangbusters in limited release. The movie is without question Clint Eastwood’s greatest opening to date, and those who wrote him off earlier in 2014 for “Jersey Boys” should rethink this position. Our guess is, since all movie studios ever do is follow the money, a rash of books based on real-life recent wartime experiences will get rushed into development. And Cooper’s quotes are likely going to skyrocket from here. The actor is now also a four-time Oscar nominee thanks to the Best Actor and Best Picture nominations for “American Sniper” (he’s also a producer on the film hence the fourth nom). ‘Sniper’ is also now the highest grossing 2015 Best Picture nominee by a wide margin, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” trails it by around $30-some million.
While this number is certainly heartening for serious Oscar dramas — a genre that is said to be endangered by some pundits — take the politics out of similar adult pictures (Oscar nominated or otherwise) and they’re not going to perform remotely the same. Take ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ (which is back in theaters now) and “Birdman,” which scored nine Oscar nominations a piece including Best Picture, Best Director and more. Their Oscar-bumps are not nearly as big as the ‘Sniper’ opening. Then again, both had been in theaters for several more weeks and are in far less theaters over all. “Birdman” is up 164.5% in its post Oscar-nominated weekend, but on only 471 screens the movie could not crack the top 10 (#14th position right now). And while Fox Searchlight also put “The Grand Budapest Hotel” back in theaters after its Oscar-nomination dominance, its release did not even register on the top 30 of the box-office. “Foxcatcher” couldn’t crack the top 15 this weekend, but its five nominations did give it a strong relative boost. Adding over 500 screens for a 759 screen total the movie jumped up 111% from last weekend. Fellow Academy contender “The Theory Of Everything” also jumped 42.5% and multiple nominee “Boyhood” jumped 1,003% as it added 116 theaters this weekend.
The only film that saw a measureable Oscar-nod-driven bump besides “American Sniper” was the Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game,” though it was not a significant one. The film was #6 at the box-office last weekend and the film held on firmly to keep that spot (it fell all of 0.3%). “Into The Woods,” “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies” and “Unbroken” all had decent under-50% drop holds as well (the Sondeheim musical only fell 31.5% in week four). However ‘Battle Of The Five Armies’ is sharply slowing down overseas. Sure, it’s crossed $800 million worldwide, only the second film of 2014, to do so, but it’s pacing isn’t as strong as it once was. In week two and three of international release, WB’s tentpole seem poised to outgross ‘Transformers 4‘ for the mantle of top grossing film of 2014 globally, but it still has $200 million and some to go. That said, China is still to come and it could be a juggernaut in that territory. As expected, Universal’s “Blackhat,” had a very poor showing with only $4 million in weekend one. By next weekend it will likely fall out of the top 10 and Uni’s hopes for it domestically probably can’t be much higher than $15-20 million. It’s a big bomb for Michael Mann’s movie — one of the worst openings for a film in 2000-plus theaters– for which they haven’t released a budget yet, but it’s likely easily north of $80 million.
Sony Pictures Classics’ “Still Alice” did well in its opening weekend of limited release, no doubt bolstered by Julianne Moore’s Best Actress Oscar nomination. On twelve screens, the movie grossed $282,000 for a good $17,667 per screen average, the highest of the limited openers. Without nowhere near as much buzz the indie, “Appropriate Behavior” could only gross a very small $1,682 per screen average from 11 screens.
Trailing behind Eastwood’s film in new releases, Screen Gems’ “Wedding Ringer” had a very healthy start with a $21 million opening despite terrible reviews — after all Kevin Hart is still a major box office draw. But maybe there are a few cracks in his armor as the debut is down from his last few releases including “Think Like A Man Too” ($29.2 million), “About Last Night” ($25.6 million) and “Ride Along” ($41.5M). Weinstein Company’s “Paddington” had a good but not quite amazing opening weekend, but the animated family film has received rave reviews from all corners of the world (including us), so perhaps it’ll have a long shelf life. “Taken 3” cracked the $60 million mark domestically in week two and Paramount’s still-undervalued “Selma” surpassed the $25 million mark in its second week of wide release, fourth week total.
Internationally, Legendary‘s “Seventh Son” debuted #1 in China with a $15 million opening. Its overseas total now stands at $60.5M which is terrific considering it hasn’t opened in the U.S. yet and when it does, all media is going to be extremely skeptical of the film (it’s been delayed in theaters for almost two years now and that’s redolent with bomb).
As suspected, in its first weekend of wide release, “Inherent Vice” tumbled -58% with a low $1.1 million opening. The movie stands at $6.4 million total and if this pace continues, the movie won’t be able to crawl past $15 million. This would make for Paul Thomas Anderson’s lowest grossing film domestically of all time bar “Hard Eight” which was only dumped into a few theaters and then forgotten about by Samuel Goldwyn in 1997. It’s a shame considering how good the movie is, but not a total surprise given how strange it must seem for the mainstream moviegoer. In not-quite-milestones, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is just two million shy of surpassing “Guardians of The Galaxy” to become the #1 grossing film of 2014 domestically. The 3rd installment of the series should surpass that mark next weekend.
1. American Sniper — $90,205,000
2. The Wedding Ringer — $21,000,000
3. Paddington — $19,287,000
4. Taken 3 — $14,050,000 ($62,837,000)
5. Selma — $8,300,000 ($25,964,000)
6. The Imitation Game — $7,192,000 ($50,798,000)
7. Into the Woods — $6,542,000 ($114,296,000)
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — $4,860,000 ($244,537,000)
9. Unbroken — $4,267,000 ($108,610,000)
10. Blackhat —$4,030,000