As if we hadn’t always known, even in these supposedly cynical times of rampant moral relativism, U.S. audiences (and, increasingly, non-U.S. ones) respond in strong positive terms to American patriotism and Christianity. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper set an opening-weekend record for box-office receipts for a movie opening in January (either three days or four days) and indeed for any non-“tentpole” movie. The Hollywood Reporter summarizes the achievement as follows:
Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper opened to a historic $105.3 million over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in North America, shattering numerous records, boosting its Oscar profile and forever changing the way Hollywood studios view the sleepy month of January.
American Sniper marks the biggest launch ever for a non-tentpole Hollywood title, as well as for a movie opening in January — much less an R-rated modern-day war film (the previous best for a drama was The Passion of the Christ with $83.8 million). And the film’s three-day haul of $89.5 million marks the No. 2 debut for an R-rated film after The Matrix: Reloaded ($91.8 million), not accounting for inflation.
The movie, starring Bradley Cooper as real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, benefited from a massive turnout in America’s heartland. It also recorded the biggest Oscar bump of all time after landing six nominations Feb. 15, including best picture and best actor.
Just as impressive, American Sniper is posting strong numbers overseas, despite its pro-American military theme, earning $25.4 million to date for an early worldwide cume of $134.1 million.
Of course, there will be no rush of Hollywood studios to make patriotic films, much less Christianity-friendly ones. The studios and distributors know that they can generate a solid, guaranteed profit with a slate of whatever movies they choose to make, provided only that a certain percentage of them resonate with audiences enough to reach blockbuster status. Hence they don’t really care what the audience likes, instead choosing to make safe fantasies and comedies for money and politically charged movies for prestige.
Nonetheless, it’s pleasing to see a non-standard Hollywood film do so well.