American Sniper Aiming for Biggest January Opening Ever

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American Sniper Clip

2015 is off to a great start for the box office as the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend is going to see three movies with decent showings but none better than the Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper teaming for American Sniper, which tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. 

After an impressive showing in just four theaters since opening on Christmas Day, the stirring drama expanded nationwide into 3,555 theaters and it has grossed an estimated $30.5 million in its opening day (including Thursday previews).

That’s not only a new opening day record for January, far surpassing Cloverfield‘s $17 million, but it’s also the biggest single day in January, surpassing the $25.8 million that James Cameron’s Avatar made on January 2, 2010.

In fact, American Sniper has beaten the previous opening weekend record for a Clint Eastwood movie in its first day, the title formerly held by his drama Gran Torino, which grossed $29.5 million in 2009 after expanding nationwide. It also is likely to gross nearly twice the earnings of many of Eastwood’s recent movies in a single weekend. 

The movie had been seeing brisk ticket sales throughout the week, but it’s likely that its six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, helped boost interest in a movie that was already a first choice for many moviegoers. Although critics were mixed on the movie with a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s being reported that it’s received a rare “A+” CinemaScore, which is a good sign the movie will have solid legs after the holiday weekend.

It’s hard to guess how much the movie will be frontloaded, but it certainly seems possible that it could make in the vicinity of $90 to 95 million (or more) by Monday, doubling some of the more modest box office projections including The Weekend Warrior’s

It’s quite impressive for a movie that relied heavily on advertising to get out there since Bradley Cooper was busy appearing on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” and Clint Eastwood is notoriously interview-shy.  For whatever reason, the combination of the two with the story struck a chord with audiences who rushed out to see it.

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report, including estimates for the other three movies opening.