To sum up last week at the box office: “Holy shit.” This week, let’s mix it up and go with: “Holy. Shit.” $200 million. That’s how much money American Sniper, the politically divisive little Oscar-nominated war film that could, has grossed in North America after another mind-blowing weekend. Laugh at that fake baby all you want, but it could probably buy you now. Sniper pretty much single-handedly boosted the domestic box office 30 percent over the same weekend last year, and year-to-date ticket admissions now stand 9.3 percent above 2014. So, enough flirting — let’s get to it.
Winner: Do I Really Need to Say It?
In its second weekend in wide release, American Sniper reaped another $64 million at the domestic box office, which, by the way, surpasses even the most optimistic projections for its first weekend. It’s now the no. 2 war film of all time, just above Pearl Harbor, and quickly closing in on Saving Private Ryan’s $216 million in 1998. Sniper should eclipse that easily even if you account for inflation. Attribute it to whatever you want — success in red-state America, the Oscar nominations, or buzz-feeding blowback — but Sniper should continue to march triumphantly through multiplexes for a while. But of all the figures being thrown around, there’s only one you really need to stare at in slack-jawed amazement: 28 percent.
American Sniper dropped only 28 percent in its second weekend, which literally doesn’t happen. In fact, American Sniper’s most impressive record may be that it has the best hold of any film that opened with $85 million or higher. You see, once upon a time back in the old millennium, movies used to stick around for months in theaters — that’s how Titanic racked up $2 billion worldwide. But our digitally fractured age has pretty much destroyed studios’ ability to keep our attention beyond opening weekend (and bad word of mouth now spreads faster than measles on the west side of L.A.). As a result, studios learned to front-load their releases. Soon box office records were falling every other weekend: $100 million, $150 million, $200 million. But if you look closely at the second-weekend drops, you notice that even the biggest blockbusters fall at least 50 percent or more, with 60 to 70 percent much more the norm (though when you’re opening to $100 million, that’s still a lot of money). To drop 28 percent shows legs that movies rarely have in the age of first-weekend fandom, when we all line up for the opening and then quickly move on.
So that’s why American Sniper continues to collect box office laurels: biggest second weekend for an R-rated film; eighth-biggest second weekend of all time; first- and third-best January weekends; and a strong shot at grossing well more than $300 million and becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. If you feel the desire to cut American Sniper down to size, you can note that it’s made only $47 million abroad, probably because our military exploits don’t necessarily have the same appeal outside of our borders. Still, it’s hard to look in the mirror and pretend that $247 million total (and rising fast) isn’t a lot of money. Clint Eastwood, it’s time to practice your Daniel Plainview impression.
Loser: Stupid Mustaches
And American Sniper also managed to leave another A-list casualty beaten and bloody on the side of the road. After Michael Mann’s Blackhat became 2015’s first resounding bomb, Johnny Depp’s mustachioed passion project Mortdecai opened to a disastrous $4.1 million. But Depp’s a global star with universal appeal, you say, and the rest of the world will save him! Yeah, no. Mortdecai earned just $5.2 million from 33 territories; with a $60 million price tag, the movie is a gut-punch of a third strike for Depp after Transcendence and The Lone Ranger. As Forbes points out, though, Depp doesn’t care! All he has to do is apply some mascara, hop on a boat, and all is forgiven, because Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is currently in production. Still, Johnny’s non-pirate-related passions are going to be looking at reduced budgets for the foreseeable future.
Winner: The Talent Show Judge Next Door
We’ll always have J.Lo. Good-old, reliable J.Lo. Apparently, all she has to do is show up in a cheesy thriller and just rake it in. The Boy Next Door made $15 million for no. 2 this weekend. Sure, that sounds like peanuts next to Sniper, but the film cost only $4 million to produce, thanks to the dark arts of producer Jason Blum. Depending on whatever back-end deal with the devil she signed, J.Lo should be collecting plenty in spare box office change.
Loser: George Lucas’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It probably doesn’t come as a shock, but even little children aren’t interested in buying whatever George Lucas is selling these days. Strange Magic, his animated reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic, made only $5.5 million in 3,020 locations — apparently one of the worst openings ever for a film debuting that wide. It certainly doesn’t look good next to Paddington’s second weekend: That movie added $12.4 million to its nearly $170 million in worldwide box office, with only a 35 percent drop here in America. Of course, it could be worse, George: At least you didn’t cast Johnny Depp.
American Sniper and the Four Other Films It Allowed to Earn Money at the Box Office This Weekend
- American Sniper, Warner Bros., $64.3 million ($200.1 million domestic total)
- The Boy Next Door, Universal, $15 million
- Paddington, The Weinstein Company, $12.39 million ($40 million domestic total)
- The Wedding Ringer, Sony, $11.6 million ($39.7 million domestic total)
- Taken 3, Fox, $7.6 million ($76 million domestic total)