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The Weekend's Box-Office Produced One Record-Breaking Hit and One Spectacular Flop

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 18, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 18, 2015 |

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper was a bigger hit this weekend than anyone probably could’ve imagined, putting up $90 million in its first weekend in wide release. That’s good for the biggest January opening of all time (more than doubling the previous record holder, Kevin Hart’s Ride Along with $41 million) and making it the second-highest grossing opening weekend for an R-Rated film of all time (behind only the $91 million put up by The Matrix Reloaded).

Credit the smart marketing (and a killer trailer) and the studio’s decisions to cleverly open the film the weekend after the Oscar nominations (I suspect it’s also the biggest opening ever for a Best Picture nomination). The film also received an A+ Cinemascore, which suggests it should have long legs, as well, and should eventually become Clint Eastwood’s highest grossing film (Gran Torino, with $141 million, currently holds that title).

You can also expect plenty of pieces in the coming weeks about Chris Kyle, and whether he was a hero or something else. All I know is that it had the worst post-script in cinematic history. Ever.

Meanwhile, the legendary director behind Heat, Manhunter and The Insider seems to have been the biggest casualty of American Sniper’s success. Michael Mann’s Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth, could only muster a meager $4 million, good for only 10th place.

To put that in perspective, for films opening in over 2500 screens, that’s the 13th worst opening of all time. Notable box-office flops MacGruber and Ben Affleck’s Surviving Christmas both had bigger openings than Blackhat. Even Josie and the Pussycats was bigger, for God’s sake.

Elsewhere, the weekend saw two other modestly sized openings, first with Kevin Hart’s The Wedding Ringer, which racked up a decent $21 million (nearly half of last year’s Ride Along) and the amazingly charming, incredibly delightful Paddington, the perfect movie for the children of parents who watch stuffy, old-lady British shows.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.