LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Record-breaking drama “American Sniper” remained firmly on top of the North American box office this weekend, shrugging off rumbling controversies to cement its status as the highest-grossing war movie of all time, estimated figures showed Sunday.
The Clint Eastwood-directed drama surpassed Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” as the most successful war film ever made last Thursday, after inching past the 1998 movie’s record haul of $216.5 million.
Eastwood’s movie, loosely based on the life of Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in US military history, has divided critics who have accused it of presenting a simplistic black-and-white view of the Iraq War.
But cinemagoers have flocked to the film in droves, helping the movie earn another $31.8 million this weekend to take its total earnings to $248.9 million, figures from box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations showed.
“American Sniper” – which has been nominated for six Academy Awards – has now set its sights on another box office record, aiming to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. That record currently belongs to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, with $370 million.
In second place this weekend was children’s movie “Paddington”, the acclaimed big-screen adaptation based on the beloved books by English author Michael Bond, about a bear from deepest, darkest Peru with a taste for marmalade.
The movie took $8.51 million in its third week of release, pushing its earnings to $50.5 million.
Third place was taken by science-fiction thriller “Project Almanac”, about a group of friends who discover a time-machine with disastrous consequences, which debuted with $8.5 million.
Fourth spot belonged to another new release, “Black or White”, a racially charged drama starring Kevin Costner as a widowed grandfather battling to retain custody of his granddaughter. The film took $6.5 million.
Jennifer Lopez’s steamy thriller “The Boy Next Door”, which stars the pop diva as a divorcee who has an ill-advised affair with a handsome – very young – neighbour, was fifth with $6.1 million.
Comedy “The Wedding Ringer” was sixth with $5.7 million, just ahead of Oscar-nominated World War II drama, “The Imitation Game,” which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as codebreaking genius Alan Turing. The movie took $5.2 million.
Eighth place went to “Taken 3”, the latest instalment of the successful action franchise starring Liam Neeson as a no-nonsense former CIA agent. The movie took $3.6 million in its fourth week of release, pushing its earnings past $81 million.
Musical fairy tale “Strange Magic” – the first animated movie release by Lucasfilm since its 2012 purchase by Disney – was ninth with $3.4 million while debuting thriller “The Loft” rounded out the top 10 with $2.9 million.