GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – METEORIC RISE OF “AMERICAN SNIPER”

Welcome to Going Bionic #253. Today we’re scoping the most financially successful war film of all time, American Sniper. The controversial picture, which is based on Chris Kyle’s bestselling autobiography, smashed all expectations on its opening weekend and has since went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor.

However, none of the above was even remotely expected, which is why we’re focusing on how this film has crushed the box office since even before its wide release on January 16.

A Most Powerful Limited Christmas Day Release
American Sniper earned $633,456 in four theaters over its Christmas weekend release, which is an astonishing $158,364 per screen average. While the film’s box office was only good enough for 22nd place, the per-screen average was proof-positive that American audiences were craving this story.

Side Note: For those of you wondering why American Sniper had a limited release on Christmas Day, it’s because December 25 is the last day of the year that a film can be released theatrically and still be nominated for Academy Awards.

Subsequent Limited Release Weekends Remained Strong
American Sniper continued to impress in its second week of limited release (January 2-4), when its earnings spiked by 6.9% to $676,909 on four screens. Furthermore, the picture’s third week of limited release (January 9-11), made $579,518, which is only a 14.4% dip. These strong numbers surely persuaded Warner Brothers to go mega-wide with the film.

First Wide Weekend (Jan 16-19) Makes History
American Sniper did something nobody ever expected over the January 16/Martin Luther King Jr. four day weekend; it made $107,211,457 on 3,555 screens. $89,269,066 of its take was made from Friday through Sunday, which is also a three-day record for January. The film’s $30,158 per screen average over four-days is extremely healthy for being on 3,555 screens.

The Second #1 Weekend Grew The Phenomenon
Just in case the first wide weekend wasn’t memorable enough; American Sniper remained in first place on its second weekend, earning $64,628,304 on 3,705 screens between January 23-25. In fact, the next closet contender was The Boy Next Door, which earned $14,910,105 on 2,602 screens. Thus, American Sniper earned nearly $50 million more than its closet competitor.

A Super Bowl 49 Enriched Third Weekend Remained #1
American Sniper remained #1 at the box office in its third wide weekend of release, by earning $30,660,258 on 3,855 screens from January 30 to February 1. What is even more impressive is Sunday, February 1 was the day Super Bowl 49 became the single largest audience in the history of television, with 114.4 million viewers. Thus, American Sniper remained #1 in its third week of release, even when it competed with the most watched television broadcast in history.

January 16 Release Was Competition-Free
Another key factor as to why American Sniper caught fire is because its release date was strategically planted in a month when there is very little competition at the box office. Thus, if the picture worked, (which it did), there would be little else to derail its path for several weeks.

Case and point: American Sniper was the #1 film at the box office for its first three weeks of wide release. It only dipped to #2 this past weekend, when it earned $23,289,113 on 3,885 screens (The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water won the weekend by earning $55,365,012 in 3,641 theaters).

The Overall Numbers (so far)
American Sniper has earned $281,389,352 domestically, and another $79,000,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide total of $360,389,352. That’s pretty damn good for a picture with a production budget of $58.8 million. Given the political climate worldwide, this picture may not thrive overseas like it has on American soil. However, American Sniper has become the quintessential American-made war film at the box-office, because it recently by surpassed Saving Private Ryan (1998), which earned $216,540,909 on 2,807 screens.

Okay, filmmakers, that concludes today’s edition. Thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I wish you a wonderful President’s Day Weekend! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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