"American Sniper" scored big again at the box office with an estimated $31.9 million -- a number that, if it holds up, will set a record for Super Bowl weekend.
"Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour" had held the Super Bowl weekend record with a $31.1-million opening in 2008. Clint Eastwood's war drama, which shattered several box-office records in its wide release rollout, held the top spot for the third weekend in a row.
According to early estimates, the film's weekend gross will raise its cumulative domestic take to $248.9 million in the U.S. and Canada, propelled in part by six Academy Award nominations, strong critical reception and an A-plus grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore.
The "American Sniper" numbers helped the U.S. and Canadian box office finish almost 20% above results from the same weekend last year, and year-to-date grosses are about 8.7% above 2013 numbers, according to research firm Rentrak.
"American Sniper" cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow about $58 million to make. Adapted from the Chris Kyle autobiography of the same name, the film follows the story of Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a Navy SEAL known as the most lethal sniper in American history.
Coming in at second for the weekend was Weinstein Co.'s family film "Paddington," which took in $8.5 million for a cumulative total of $50.5 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). Weinstein Co. bought domestic rights for the film, which cost about $55 million to make, from StudioCanal.
Of the three new releases, teen time-travel drama "Project Almanac," distributed by Paramount Pictures, fared the best at No. 3. Though it fell slightly short of industry projections, the film grossed a decent $8.5 million in its debut.
The film, which cost just $12 million to make, was produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. It follows a brilliant high school student (Jonny Weston) and his friends after they uncover blueprints for a mysterious device that can take them back in time.
It earned a B-minus grade on CinemaScore and 36% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
"Black or White," released by Relativity Studios for a short awards-qualifying run in December, opened nationally this weekend in fourth place with about $6.5 million. Actor Kevin Costner financed the film, which tells the story of a grandfather (Costner) who is left to care for his granddaughter. Octavia Spencer and Anthony Mackie co-star in the film, written and directed by Mike Bender ("Reign Over Me").
“We are proud to support Kevin Costner and Mike Binder's passion for 'Black or White' and are confident that adults will continue to come out over the weeks ahead given the film's A-minus CinemaScore and growth from Friday to Saturday," a Relativity representative said in a statement.
"The Boy Next Door," which debuted to $15 million last weekend, finished in fifth with $6 million. The psychological thriller follows Jennifer Lopez as a teacher who is seduced by a teenager (Ryan Guzman). Made for just $4 million, it is the latest micro-budget collaboration from Universal and Blumhouse Productions, following "The Purge" franchise and "Ouija."
"The Loft" rounded out the top 10 with a $2.9-million debut. Open Road films is distributing the murder mystery, which is based on a 2008 Dutch film. The film stars James Marsden, Eric Stonestreet, Rachael Taylor and Wentworth Miller. The film earned a B-minus rating and a 0% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with one critic calling it "blah!"