In most years, January tends to be the most boring month of the year for the box office. This is where Hollywood typically sends the movies in which it has the least faith. This is the dumping ground, the place where movies go to die so the studios can concentrate on their Oscar campaigns. However, thanks to ‘American Sniper,’ this January has bucked every trend. It may technically be a 2014 release, but Clint Eastwood’s war film has made the first chunk of 2015 interesting, shattering expectations and threatening to become the highest grossing film of last year in only a few weeks.


FilmWeekendPer Screen
1American Sniper$31,850,000 (-50.7)$8,198$248,942,000
2Paddington$8,505,000 (-30.7)$2,575$50,540,000
3Project Almanac$8,500,000$2,938$8,500,000
4Black or White$6,456,000$3,541$6,456,000
5The Boy Next Door$6,093,000 (-59.1)
6The Wedding Ringer$5,700,000 (-49.6)$2,021$48,100,000
7The Imitation Game$5,173,000 (-25.5)$2,154$67,955,000
8Taken 3$3,650,000 (-50.8)$1,441$81,353,000
9Strange Magic$3,441,000 (-37.5)$1,139$9,899,000
10The Loft$2,879,000$1,564$2,879,000


In its third week at the top of the box office, ‘American Sniper’ grossed $31 million, bringing it to a current total of $248 million. Unless it suddenly loses momentum, that puts it in a position to actually threaten ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1’ as the highest grossing film (initially) released in 2014. That’s huge, especially since we’re talking about an R-rated movie made for adults and not a YA adaptation or comic book movie. We’ll see what happens as we enter February and the wide releases start to get slightly more interesting, but $300 million definitely feels like a sure thing.

It’s a good thing ‘American Sniper’ was around since this would have otherwise been an exceptionally boring week. Each of the week’s three new releases flopped, making this one of the most painful weeks in an already painful month. First, ‘Project Almanac’ entered the fray with a shrug-worthy $8 million, which makes the film’s countless delays and rescheduling feel oh-so-silly in retrospect. The Kevin Costner vehicle ‘Black or White’ fared even more poorly, taking in just $6 million. However, ‘The Loft’ performed more dismally than the rest, opening in the number 10 slot with only $2 million. That’s what a non-existent marketing campaign and toxic reviews will get you.

There were still a handful of other bright spots. ‘Paddington’ leapt back up to second place with $8 million, bringing its total to $50 million. It’s pretty much a sleeper hit at this point. In the bottom half of the top 10, ‘The Wedding Ringer’ and ‘The Imitation Game’ continued to do solid if not wildly exciting business, with the latter finally starting to run out of steam after a month of exceptional, Oscar-driven returns.

But there was also a whole lot of nothing. ‘The Boy Next Door’ dropped about as much as you would expect, ‘Strange Magic’ continued to bomb, and ‘Taken 3’ continued to struggle toward $100 million despite its very strong opening weekend. If not for ‘American Sniper,’ all we we’d have to write in this week’s column is “shrug.”

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