American Sniper blasts competition at North American box office

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Clint Eastwood's American Sniper blasted into first place with a massive US$90.2 million (S$119.66 million) take, blowing away the competition at the American box office, industry estimates said Sunday.

The war drama, based on the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, set a new record for January opening, US media reported, and comes after the film wracked up six Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for star Bradley Cooper. This was the film's first weekend in wide release.

Well behind, but with another solid debut, action comedy The Wedding Ringer opened in second place with US$21 million, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. The critically panned flick stars Kevin Hart as a best-man-for-hire for a socially awkward groom.

Paddington, a new big screen adaptation of the family classic about a bear lost in the big city, opened in the third spot. The kids comedy, starring British actor Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame opposite the marmalade-loving bear, took in US$19.3 million in its US bow.

Action sequel Taken 3 fell to the fourth spot. The crime thriller starring Liam Neeson in his third stint as retired spy Bryan Mills, who this time must clear his name of a ruthless murder, earned US$14.1 million in its second weekend in theatres.

Historical drama Selma, depicting the epic 1965 Alabama march led by Martin Luther King in his battle for equal voting rights, was next, earning US$8.3 million. The film was nominated this week for two Oscars, including Best Picture.

The Imitation Game was in sixth with US$7.2 million. The thriller about a code-cracking mathematician and logician during World War II was near the top of the Oscars nomination list, with eight nods including in several of the top categories.

Disney's "Into the Woods," the star-studded big-screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, came in seventh, adding $6.5 million to its three-week haul of $114.5 million.

In eighth place was The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson, the last of six films adapted from JRR Tolkien's books and the third and final instalment based on the author's novel The Hobbit. It took in US$4.9 million over the weekend, for a total of US$244.5 million since its release five weeks ago.

Close behind in ninth with US$4.3 million was Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed drama about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete taken captive by the Japanese during World War II.

And rounding out the top ten with just over US$4 million was Blackhat, a timely cyber-terrorism action flick starring Chris Hemsworth.