Clint Eastwood’s Iraq war film, American Sniper, is on target to shoot to the top of the charts and become an explosive hit for the current year. Sorry, I just had to get all of the cliches out of the way.
The drama earned an amazing $90 million on its opening weekend, making it the most successful winter movie release in history. However, as if this wasn’t impressive enough, American Sniper has also been nominated for six Oscars, including best actor for its star, Bradley Cooper.
The reason for all of the excitement over the film, besides the quality of the film itself, is the fact that it is very unusual for a film released in the winter to receive numbers equal to a summer blockbuster.
Unusual, but not impossible, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ held the record for the most successful winter opening weekend performance until American Sniper’s release. Passion of the Christ grossed just under $84 million in February 2004 and remains the highest-grossing non-English-language film of all time.
In American Sniper, Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, a legendary Navy Seal sniper who served four tours of duty in Iraq. The film was released in a very limited fashion in December, to just two theaters in New York, one in Dallas and one in Los Angeles.
Dan Fellman, Warner Brothers. domestic distribution president said the strategy was to “get people to line up, make it a hard ticket, and have people see it in packed theaters.”
The strategy worked, and there was widespread interest in the movie by the time it opened nationwide last Friday, the 16th.
It also wasn’t a coincidence that the Academy Awards nominations were announced a day earlier, Cooper was nominated for best actor and the movie was nominated for best picture, giving “Sniper” even more momentum.
Fellman said Warner Brothers was hoping for a $50 million four-day opening weekend. “That would have been a gigantic number,” he said.
Instead “Sniper” made $34 million the first day, $38 million the second day and $105.3 total, being called “just staggering, staggering numbers.
Controversies surrounding the movie have helped to sustain interest, even though some of the stories have been sharply negative. While some have celebrated the movie for its unflinching portrayal of combat in Iraq, others have assailed it as war propaganda. The word “MURDER” was scrawled on one billboard for the movie near Hollywood.