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Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News For Movie Lovers

Clint Eastwood blew everyone away with “American Sniper,” as it became the #1 January opener of all time last weekend, racking up an enormous $89M debut and a record-shattering MLK extended weekend bow of  $107M.

It also made fools of every box office prognosticator around the world, including me, who missed it by, oh, $40M+ or so. That was definitely a first.

What does all this mean? Well, for starters, the Oscar campaign has at least one film now that’s crossed $100M+. The only other of the eight Best Picture nominees that legitimately has a shot to join it is Weinstein’s “The Imitation Game” which is rolling along with $52M (and $100M+ worldwide).

But the real story is with an opening that big, the second weekend should be another direct hit, possibly breaching $50M. We’re talking about a film in “American Sniper” that is both red state and blue state friendly, crossing all demographics. This really will be a huge windfall for Warners, as the film cost just $60M and may have just put itself in the driver’s seat for the Oscars, too.

With first place secured, it’s up to three newcomers to vie for runner-up status, although Disney’s animated “Strange Magic,” the thriller “The Boy Next Door” and Johnny Depp starring in “Mortdecai” all seem like “real” January flicks (with none of them reaching over 15% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), meaning they will likely be fighting over box office scraps.

That’s all good for Universal’s “The Boy Next Door” as it was producer’s by the current maestro of micro-budgeted films, Jason Blum, with this one coming in at a ridiculously low $4M. Yes, that includes the salaries of Jennifer Lopez and director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “XXX”) who must have some seriously sweet backend deals on this one.

The R-rated pic may have enough junk in the truck to hit upwards of $15M, but anywhere in the low teens would suffice. Chance this could break out, as theaters haven’t seen this type of racy product for quite some time. Plus, in case you forgot: JLo nude.

Even though it comes from the folks at Disney under LucasFilm,  it’s doubtful George Lucas’ (story and inspiration) “Strange Magic” will hoodwink many folks. Still, without any animated competition, it should hit double digits, but not by much–$12M tops in 3,000+ theatres. Besides, Weinstein’s “Paddington” has been getting fabulous reviews and that should be enough to keep it a major player this weekend with families.

Johnny Depp is certainly a draw…as Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean” or when teamed up with Tim Burton, but he’s more of a box office blunderer than a plunderer, as his films often miss the mark by a wide margin–“Lone Ranger,” “Transcendence,” “The Rum Diary.” That brings us to Lionsgate’s “Mortdecai.”

Hallowed box office wisdom says three things: 1) Never release a film that audiences can’t pronounce 2) Never release a film that is a zany, R-rated madcap action comedy 3) Never release a film that co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow.

As you can plainly see, the producers of “Mortdecai” eschewed all the traditional warning signs and went and made this for $60M. Ah, to be rich and care free. If this makes $10M, I’ll be impressed.

That said, I sort of like the trailer…but I’m pretty sure that’s just because of my love of peculiar ‘staches.

Also in moderate wide release is “Cake” starring Jennifer Aniston. This was supposed to be her bid for awards season. She snagged a Golden Globe nod, but no such luck with the Oscars. The trailer is free, folks, the film will cost you a minimum of $8USD.  You make the call.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. American Sniper – $51M

2. The Boy Next Door – $13M

3. Paddington – $12M

4. Strange Magic – $11M

5. The Wedding Ringer – $10M

Mortdecai – $6M

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“American Sniper” Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by The Refinery