Box Office: ‘American Sniper’ stuns Hollywood with a staggering $30 million Friday

After earning six Academy Award nominations on Thursday it appears Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper” was more than ready for its national close up on Friday.  The adaptation of Chris Kyle's memoir took in a jaw-dropping $30 million for what should be a $75-76 million three day and, possibly, a $90-100 million four-day over the Martin Luther King weekend.  Not only is that the biggest January opening of all time and the biggest of director Clint Eastwood's illustrious career, but it could be the second biggest R-rated opening of all-time.  With continuing Oscar attention and good word of mouth (it earned a rare A+ Cinemascore), “Sniper” could end up with over $250 million domestic.  Since opening in limited release last month, “Sniper” has taken in $33.9 million. To say that Warner Bros.' 2015 is off a much better start than last year is an understatement of epic proportions.

As for other films fighting for attention at the multiplex, “The Wedding Ringer” looks like its going to be another hit for Kevin Hart. The buddy comedy took in $7 million for what should be $24-25 million three-day and $31-32 million over the holiday frame.  For films where he's the leading man, “Wedding's” bounty could be Hart's fourth movie in a row to debut over $25 million.

“Paddington” was able to turn rave reviews into a more than solid $4.6 Friday gross. It should play even better with Saturday and Sunday matinees and is also expected to take in somewhere between $17-18 million over the three day and possibly $22-23 million for the four-day.  Like “Imitation Game,” “Paddington” is a much needed hit for The Weinstein Company.

“Taken 3” had a substantial drop from its opening weekend taking in $4.2 million on Friday for $53 million in just 8 days. It was expected to earn $100 million domestically like the previous installments, but the competition from “Sniper” may have stole much of that potential audience.

“Selma” continued its strong run in fifth earning another $2.3 million for $20 million to date.  While Ava DuVernay's drama didn't get all the Oscar nominations it deserved, the Best Picture nod means it will be front in center for moviegoers for the next six weeks.  It has a chance at surpassing the $56.6 million last year's best picture winner “12 Years A Slave” earned domestically.

Michael Mann's “Blackhat” couldn't compete with the similarly targeted “Sniper” and earned just $1.4 million Friday.  It will likely make just $5-6 million over the frame.

Among Best Picture contenders still in theaters, “Imitation Game” made another $1.8 million for $45.4 million so far and “Birdman” found $404,000 million for $27.1 million to date. Box office results for “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash” should be available on Sunday.

Look for complete box office updates all weekend long on HitFix.