Box Office Prediction: 'American Sniper' vs. 'The Wedding Ringer'

American Sniper vs. Wedding Ringer

Welcome to the Screen Rant Box Office Prediction. Every week we put together an informal list of box office picks for the upcoming weekend - to offer readers a rough estimate of how new releases (and returning holdovers) will perform in theaters.

For a recap of last week's box office totals, read our box office wrap-up from Taken 3's opening weekend - and scroll to the bottom of this post to see how our previous picks measured up.

Full disclosure: Box office predictions are not an exact science. We acknowledge our picks may not always be correct. For the sake of offering a jumping off point for discussion, here are our picks for the weekend of January 16 - 19, 2015.

This weekend, war drama American Sniper expands nationwide to over 3,200 locations, comedy The Wedding Ringer plays in 2,800 theaters, cyber-thriller Blackhat opens in more than 2,400 theaters, and family film Paddington debuts in 3,000 theaters. In limited release, Still Alice plays on an unspecified number of screens and Spare Parts plays in 400 locations.


#1 - American Sniper

In what should be a tight battle for the top spot, we're giving the edge to American Sniper, the new war drama directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. Eastwood has been stuck in a slump for the past handful of years when it comes to box office receipts (his Jersey Boys grossed $47 million in June 2013), but this true-life film should reverse that trend. Sniper was released in limited capacity on Christmas, and it has been posting incredible numbers since that time. It currently has made $3.3 million even though it's only in four theaters right now.

In addition to being an entry in a popular genre (war), Sniper also gets some help from the presence of Cooper, who has emerged as one of the top A-listers in Hollywood. His collaborations with David O. Russell both grossed over $100 million during their respective runs, indicating that he has the support of the public. Like UnbrokenSniper was shut out by the Golden Globes; but unlike Jolie's film, it has received nominations from other premiere awards groups and stands a chance at an Oscar nomination or two tomorrow. All in all, this movie is set for a big weekend.

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

#2 - The Wedding Ringer

Coming in second should be The Wedding Ringer, a new comedy starring Kevin Hart. The comedian had tremendous success in this time frame last year, when his Ride Along achieved the largest opening weekend in January history. Despite that film's negative reception, it was still able to gross $134.9 million domestically and continued Hart's hot streak as a commercially viable force.

We expect Wedding Ringer to follow a similar trajectory. Early tracking indicates that it will have a $28 million debut, which is a large drop off from Ride Along, but still very respectable. With Sniper expected to post big numbers, it may prevent Wedding Ringer from becoming a financial sensation, but comedy fans haven't had anything new in a while and will certainly go out to see one of their favorite stars perform again.

#3 - Paddington

Our pick for third is Paddington, which is a family film based on the famous children's book series by Michael Bond. The film has managed to win critics over, with pundits praising it for its charm and sincerity. That positive buzz has led to tracking that indicates a $27 million opening weekend; and since it's rare for such an appealing option to come out at this time of year, it could have great success with audiences

Last year was a down year for films targeted at this demographic, but you can never underestimate the power of a good family film. It's been a long time since parents and kids had something they could go see together (some deemed Into the Woods too dark for the little ones), but Paddington should be right up their alley. It may not make LEGO Movie money, but it should do fine in its own right with minimal competition.

Paddington trailer #3 and featurette

#4 - Taken 3

Look for last week's champ, Taken 3 (read our review), to fall to fourth in its second weekend. Liam Neeson's latest outing as Bryan Mills opened up strong enough with $39.2 million, but that figure is below the first three days of Taken 2, which means people may be starting to lose interest in this brand. Add in the fact that it has been destroyed by critics, it's hard to see a scenario in which it maintains strong legs at the box office, especially with so many new high-profile flicks being released on Friday. Taken 3 opened high enough that even a steep decrease should keep it in the top five, but its days at the top of the charts are numbered.

#5 - Blackhat

Rounding out the top five should be Blackhat, a cyber-thriller from director Michael Mann. The filmmaker has had commercial success before in the way of 1995's Heat ($67.4 million) and 2004's Collateral ($101 million); a fact that the marketing campaign has been using to sell audiences on his latest endeavor. The movie is also headlined by Chris Hemsworth, who is a global star thanks to his role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it even has a recognizable face.

Unfortunately, that may not be enough to help Blackhat reach the heights of Mann's earlier works. Outside of his work with Marvel, Hemsworth's box office track record is far from spotless (even an acclaimed film like Rush could only manage $26.9 million), and Mann's last film, Public Enemies, left a sour taste in many people's mouths. The project also has no forward momentum (despite its somewhat timely subject matter), and is only projected to gross $11 million opening weekend. Throw in the poor initial reviews, and this film has an uphill battle ahead of it.

Last Week's Recap

Johnny Depp from Into the Woods

We correctly predicted the movies that would finish in the top five, we were just slightly off on the order. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Into the Woods came in fourth and third, respectively, while we had them flipped around in our predictions. Everything else was spot on.

That's it for this week's breakdown. Make sure to check back later this week for the official box office results!

Agree or disagree with our predictions? Which five films do you think will top the box office this weekend? Share your own picks in the comments section below!

Next Week: Mortdecai, The Boy Next Door, and more!

Source: Box Office Mojo (Release Schedule) and Box Office [1], [2], [3] (Opening Weekend Projections)

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