A lot of people are going to act like they didn’t see the enormous success of ‘American Sniper’ coming, but the signs were all there. On top of the promising limited release numbers, there was the awards buzz. On top of that, there were the names of director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper. On top of that, the subject matter of the film is inherently attractive to the same category of moviegoer that makes Christian-themed films into massive hits. ‘American Sniper’ had one doozy of a weekend, but it’s not that surprising.

FilmWeekendPer Screen
1American Sniper$90,205,000 (+15,465.5)$25,374$93,630,000
2The Wedding Ringer$21,200,000$6,993$21,000,000
4Taken 3$14,050,000 (-64.2)$3,909$62,837,000
5Selma$8,300,000 (-26.6)
6The Imitation Game$7,192,000 (-0.3)$4,464$50,798,000
7Into the Woods$6,542,000 (-31.5)$2,372$114,296,000
8The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies$4,860,000 (-48.2)$2,189$244,537,000
9Unbroken$4,267,000 (-47.8)$1,640$108,610,000

After a few weekends in limited release, ‘American Sniper’ pulled in $90 million over the weekend, bringing its grand total to $93 million. If that was the film’s final gross, it would be considered a huge success. The big question now is where it’s going to end up. It’ll pass $100 million in the next day or two, but with a few weeks of dead space ahead of us, it has a serious shot at $200 million or more.

While it was the biggest film of the weekend, several of the other newcomers fared quite well. In second place, ‘The Wedding Ringer’ opened with $21 million, continuing Kevin Hart’s track record of being able to open a movie on just his name alone. It’s a strong start, but the response to this film hasn’t been quite as rapturous as with some of his past comedies. Then again, if ‘Ride Along’ can break $100 million, this has a chance, too.

In third place, ‘Paddington’ exceeded expectations with $19 million, proving that CGI animated bears are just as appealing to American children as they are to British kids (the film is already a hit overseas). The character may not have the same name recognition that he has in other parts of the globe, but strong reviews and the mere fact that it’s a family movie released in a cinematic dead zone on a holiday weekend ensured this would happen.

You have to go all the way down to 10th place to find the fourth and final new release of the weekend. Michael Mann’s ‘Blackhat’ was dead on arrival, riding a toxic marketing campaign and even more toxic reviews to a pathetic $4 million opening. Considering the career of Michael Mann up to this point, no one is more disappointed by this than serious cinephiles. A king has stumbled.

The rest of the top 10 went about where you expect. ‘Taken 3’ took a big drop, but it should still reach $100 million with a little elbow grease (diminishing returns pretty much ensure that this is the final one). ‘Selma’ held strong, riding the Oscar-snub-buzz to another solid weekend. ‘The Imitation Game,’ buoyed by Oscar magic and Weinstein marketing, barely lost a step and looks like it won’t be slowing down anytime soon. ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Unbroken’ continued to do steady business, etc.

Meanwhile, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is finally starting to struggle and the $300 million that seemed like a sure thing a few weeks ago suddenly looks impossible.

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