That would put it significantly ahead of this weekend’s newcomers: cyber-security thriller “Blackhat,” Kevin Hart comedy “Wedding Ringer” and family film “Paddington.”
In its limited release over the Christmas holiday weekend, “American Sniper” premiered to a stellar $240,212 from just four theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
The film, which cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow about $58 million to make, will roll out in 3,555 screens across the U.S.
Adapted from the autobiography of the same name, the film is the real-life story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), the Navy SEAL who is known as the most lethal sniper in American history.
Positive word-of-mouth will also help give the film a significant boost. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards on Thursday, including best motion picture and best actor (Cooper). Eastwood also scored a nomination for the Directors Guild of America Award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film.
Ticket-selling websites Fandango and Movietickets.com both reported that the film was their biggest ticket-seller this weekend.
Sony’s “The Wedding Ringer,” which stars Hart and Josh Gad, will likely come in second with about a solid $30-million debut over the four-day weekend. The studio projects a more modest opening of between $20 million to $25 million.
The film follows Doug Harris (Gad), a lovable but awkward groom-to-be without a best man. He hires Jimmy Callahan (Hart), whose company provides flattering best men for guys in need.
Hart has proved his might at the box office before. Last year, “Ride Along” was No. 1 over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. It broke the record for top-grossing film over that holiday weekend with its $48.6-million premiere.
Sony has been promoting the film in full force. Hart and Gad crashed a real Indian wedding, performed a wedding ceremony live on “Good Morning America” and engaged in a dance-off in a promo that aired on “Ellen.”
Family film “Paddington,” released by The Weinstein Co., will also likely enter the top five. With no other kids' films in the mix, it could debut to as much as $20 million.
The movie is based on the popular English children’s literature character Paddington Bear, created by Michael Bond. It stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman and Ben Whishaw (who voices Paddington).
The Weinstein Co. bought domestic rights for the film, which cost about $55 million to make, from StudioCanal.
For those seeking action, Universal Pictures is releasing Legendary’s “Blackhat.” Directed by Michael Mann, the action-thriller follows a furloughed convict (Chris Hemsworth) as he and others hunt a cybercrime network from Chicago to Jakarta.
The film, which cost about $70 million to make, will probably open to between $10 million to $15 million over the four-day weekend.
However, action movie fans may opt to see “Taken 3,” last week’s box office winner. The Liam Neeson film will probably stay in the top five and add up to $18 million to its total domestic haul.
In limited release, Sony will distribute “Still Alice” in 13 theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe for her role in the film as a professor grappling with early onset Alzheimer's. She also earned an Oscar nomination on Thursday morning.
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