Move over, Katniss Everdeen. There's a new hero on top of the 2014 box office.
"American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, passed "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1" as the highest-grossing film released last year, according to the latest weekend U.S. and Canada box office data.
The war drama has pulled in an estimated $337.2 million domestically since its limited release on Christmas Day. The film crossed the $500-million mark worldwide, racking up $163 million internationally.
It edged ahead of the penultimate film in the blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise, "Mockingjay — Part 1," which has made an estimated $336.9 million domestically. The Lionsgate film, based on the bestselling young-adult series by Suzanne Collins, finished slightly ahead of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's "Sniper" cost about $58 million to make. It's adapted from Kyle's autobiography of the same name and follows the story of a Navy SEAL (Bradley Cooper) known as the most lethal sniper in American history. It co-stars Sienna Miller.
With six Academy Award nominations, including best picture, the film generated buzz among critics and audiences. It had a 72% positive rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and an A-plus grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore.
"Who would expect a drama to have this kind of enormous success?" said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president and general sales manager for Warner Bros. "It shows it doesn't matter when a movie comes out if it's extraordinary storytelling and hits the public in a very personal way."
Since its release, it has shattered several box-office records. And despite the American war hero storyline, the film drew moviegoers across the globe, including in the Middle East.
"You don't have to be an American to identify with the patriotism of the story," Goldstein said. "Wherever you live and whatever your ideologies are, there are still pieces of the film you can identify with."
Originally, Warner Bros. had slated the film for Christmas 2015, Goldstein added. But Eastwood finished the drama early enough to move it up a whole year.
"The fact that we've had this remarkable success reaffirms that none of us know anything about our business," Goldstein said. "We always can get surprised and shocked. ... sometimes you can't just foresee it."
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