Sunday January 25, 2015
Box Office: 'American Sniper' at $200 Million, Sets Sights on Katniss and Biggest Hit of the Year
Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to buy and buy.
We’ve been asking the wrong question with “American Sniper.” Instead of asking “Can it win best picture?” we should be asking, “Can it be the biggest box office hit of 2014”?
This weekend, Eastwood’s superpatriotic flick dropped only 27.9% for a $64 million haul. That’s the 8th-best second weekend (or “second” weekend, since “AS” opened in four theaters in late December) in movie history, behind such movies as “The Avengers,” “Avatar,” and “The Dark Knight.” In fact, with the exception of “Iron Man 3,” every one of the movies with a better second weekend went on to become the biggest box office hit of its respective year.
According to Box Office Mojo, “American Sniper” is now at $200 million. The No. 1 movie of 2014, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1,” which just surpassed “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” is at $334 million. By its second weekend, “THGMP1” was at $225 million, but it had fallen by 53%, then fell another 61% in the third weekend. So if “American Sniper” can keep from falling at those levels, it'll do it.
Pretty stunning. I didn’t think “AS” would do $50 million and now it’s going to be the biggest hit of Clint Eastwood’s career. Actually it already is. Some day I’d like to read how Warner Bros. handled the rollout strategy. There’s a story there beyond showing people what they want to see.
I should be happy about this, by the way. A serious film will be the biggest hit of the year! When was the last time that happened? Something, in other words, that isn’t superheroes or cartoons or sci-fi fantasy? You’d have to go back all the way to 1998 when another war film, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” was the biggest hit of the year.
So I should be happy. Except how serious is “American Sniper”? I’d argue that it overlays a reductive Hollywood formula upon our most serious subject: the war on terror. I’d argue it’s doing as well as it is because it’s giving people the Iraq War they (and Pres. Bush) always imagined they’d fight, rather than the complicated one we wound up fighting. In “Saving Private Ryan,” one of the characters ironically recites Tennyson: “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die,” but in “American Sniper” that’s actually the movie—unironically. “American Sniper” doesn’t reason why. (My review here.)
Even so, what a fascinating few weeks at the box office. You can’t tell me Clint Eastwood isn’t hanging somewhere grinning over this. His late entry has stirred the pot again.
In other box office news, Jennifer Lopez had her best opening since “Monster in Law” in 2005, as “The Boy Next Door” (hot sex leads to stalking, per Hollywood) opened to $15 million and second place. The George Lucas-written cartoon “Strange Magic” had none, managing only $5 million in 3,020 theaters, while Johnny Depp’s latest foppish adventure, “Mortdecai,” flopped, grossing just $4 million. His reign is over.