The Super Bowl frame was dominated by the blockbuster holdover American Sniper which easily sprinted past all competitors to gross an estimated $31.9M in its third round of nationwide play. Off a sizable 51%, the Warner Bros. smash has raised its total to a jaw-dropping $248.9M with plenty more to come as it heads towards the $300M club.
After a record-shattering nationwide opening weekend of $89.3M followed by a sensational hold in its next frame with $64.6M, off a mere 28%, Sniper suffered a much bigger hit this time around. Competition from the Super Bowl was a factor as many films, especially those targeting adult men, routinely see Saturday-to-Sunday tumbles of around 70% or so on the day of the Big Game thus impacting the weekend drop. But the Clint Eastwood-directed hit experienced a larger Super Bowl weekend fall than other January military dramas like Lone Survivor (45% last year), Zero Dark Thirty (47% in 2013), and Black Hawk Down (35% in 2002).
New releases all posted lackluster results in the single digit millions so competition from those films was minimal. Where Sniper did see an impact was from losing half of its IMAX screens which this weekend went to Game of Thrones, another Warner Bros. title. The IMAX portion of the gross took a 75% nosedive from $5.8M in 333 sites last weekend to $1.5M in 165 screens this time. And after a couple of weeks of mainstream media attention for a list of so-called controversies, buzz may be fading now.
If the weekend estimate holds, American Sniper will edge out by a hair the record for the biggest Super Bowl weekend gross ever which has been held for seven years by another early-year box office phenomenon – Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. That 3D fan pic bowed to $31.1M this weekend in 2008 from only 683 theaters for a jaw-dropping $45,561 average powered by tween girls and higher ticket prices. Sniper’s take came in its third weekend of wide play, while Hannah’s tally came from a much more narrow release in 3,000 fewer theaters. Both were amazing in their own ways.
Sniper has been taking all the oxygen out of the marketplace these last three weeks as other films have barely been able to grab any part of the box office pie. By next weekend it may have more in ticket sales than all other Best Picture Oscar contenders combined.
Family audiences continued to flock to see Paddington which dropped by only 31% to an estimated $8.5M for a new total of $50.5M for The Weinstein Co. According to studio estimates, it finished in a tie for second place.
The teen sci-fi saga Project Almanac from producer Michael Bay opened to lackluster results with an estimated $8.5M as well posting a dull $2,938 average from 2,893 locations. Paramount gave the super-producer’s project a very wide release but not enough of the target audience was interested in coming out for the PG-13 pic. Studio data showed that the crowd was 55% male and 63% under 25. The $12M budgeted pic should find better results later on home entertainment platforms.
Kevin Costner stumbled into fourth place with his latest film Black or White which debuted to an estimated $6.5M from 1,823 locations for a weak $3,541 average. The PG-13 race relations drama earned mostly yawns from film critics and a marketplace full of Oscar contenders gave older adults more promising options. It was the third film in 12 months that Costner anchored only to see sluggish sales on opening weekend. Last year’s Draft Day and 3 Days to Kill opened wider and somewhat bigger, but still did not impress despite both having pricey Super Bowl TV spots. The Academy Award winner has yet another offering on deck, Disney’s McFarland, USA on February 20.
Jennifer Lopez saw her latest film The Boy Next Door tumble a steep 59% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.1M for a cume of $24.7M for Universal. That is a good amount for the low-budget thriller which cost only $4M to produce, plus more for marketing. In its third weekend, Kevin Hart’s The Wedding Ringer slipped 50% to an estimated $5.7M for a new total of $48.1M for Sony.
Oscar contender The Imitation Game enjoyed another great hold from those interested in the top awards titles. The Weinstein Co. pic declined by 26% to an estimated $5.2M bumping the cume up to $68M – second best among all Best Picture nominees behind just Eastwood’s soldier juggernaut. Taken 3 followed with an estimated $3.7M, down 51%, giving Fox $81.4M to date. The George Lucas pet project Strange Magic dropped a reasonable 38% from its dismal debut to an estimated $3.4M. Disney has taken in just $9.9M so far.
Bouncing around the release calendars and finally making its way into theaters was the thriller The Loft which was rejected by audiences collecting a puny $2.9M from 1,841 locations for a terrible $1,564 average. The R-rated film was low on starpower and awareness plus was met with poor reviews. Open Road dumped it into a crowded marketplace and was never going to find any success.
Warner Bros. collected some cash with the exclusive IMAX release of the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones and grossed an estimated $1.5M from 205 locations for a solid $7,322 average. The offering included the final two episodes of the last season, upgraded to IMAX standards, plus a sneak peek into the upcoming fifth season which debuts in April.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.2M which was up a healthy 25% from last year when Ride Along stayed at number one with $12M; and up 27% from 2013 when Warm Bodies debuted on top with $20.4M.