ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

Talk about being blown away!

"American Sniper" stunned Hollywood and absolutely obliterated even the most optimistic projections for it's first weekend in nationwide release this past weekend.

The Clint Eastwood directed war drama starring Bradley Cooper crushed the previous January opening-weekend record held by 2014's "Ride Along", more than doubling the $41.5 million generated by the Kevin Hart comedy!

"American Sniper" also now holds the record for having the largest January weekend ever. The previous record was held by James Cameron's Avatar which generated $68.5 million in ticket sales in January 2010 - during it's third weekend.

It also came within a whisker of setting a new record for best opening-weekend for an R-rated film, which is still the $91.8 million generated by 2003's "The Matrix Reloaded".

In short, audiences responded to "American Sniper" with the same enthusiasm they had for last year's superhero fare on their opening weekends: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", which had an opening-weekend of $95 million; "Guardians of the Galaxy" ($94.3 million); "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" ($91.6 million) and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" ($90.8 million). When you take into account that "American Sniper" didn't have the advantage of 3-D pricing, it's a very real possibility that it actually sold more tickets than any of those movies.

There are a couple four-day records and MLK-weekend records and IMAX records the film is projected to break, but until I get firmer numbers, I'll leave them out of this piece.

The $90.2million generated over the past 3-day weekend by "American Sniper" is also the the 40th biggest weekend ever. That gets far more impressive when you consider it is the 8th-biggest opening weekend ever for a film that wasn't a sequel or prequel and the ONLY film in the Top 40 Opening-Weekend chart to not be a franchise film, like the original "The Hunger Games" ($152.5 million) and the original "Iron Man" ($98.6 million).

"American Sniper" also has set a record for a real-world drama - that is, no sci-fi, fantasy or superheroes -- by handily outpacing the $83 million generated by "The Passion of the Christ". That film also set a record for an R-rated film with an overall $370 million domestic take.

It would have been unimaginable to ask 48 hours ago but could "American Sniper" actually reach those heights?

It's possible.

Let's consider that "American Sniper has Clint Eastwod's name behind it - and that it grossed more in one day - $30.5 millon than Eastwood's previous high for a full weekend, which was "Gran Torino", with $29.4 million. That film finished with $148 million domestically, which "American Sniper" could be surpassing by the end of it's first full week.

That $30.5 million opening-day also broke another record previously held by "Avatar", the largest single day ever in January - $25.8 million on January 2nd, 2010. It's also 77 percent higher than the previous opening day record in January, which belonged to "Cloverfield", which generated $17.2 million.

Also consider that "American Sniper" is perfectly sandwiched between the Oscar nominations Thursday and the Oscar ceremonies a month from now. It will be by far the highest-grossing film of all the other nominees for Best Picture.

When the nominations were announced, it was easily the weakest group of films in terms of box-office since the Academy expanded the field.

To drive that home, it took "American Sniper" only TWO DAYS to pass "The Grand Budapest Hotel" to become the highest-grossing movie nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture this year.

Additionally, it's currently earned more than "Birdman", "The Theory of Everything", "Boyhood" and "Whiplash" combined.

That combination of being the most appealing "serious" film in the marketplace should serve "American Sniper" well in the next month.

Toss in the fact that it has an A+ Cinemascore, which means word-of-moth should be extraordinarily positive, and it looks like the sky is the limit for "American Sniper".


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