Controversial 'Sniper' tops US box office for second week, stirs anti-Muslim sentiment

 Bradley Cooper stars in the controversial film American Sniper, based on a true story, which has been a mega-hit at the United States box office even as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee warned that it has stirred threats aga
 Bradley Cooper stars in the controversial film American Sniper, based on a true story, which has been a mega-hit at the United States box office even as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee warned that it has stirred threats against Muslims. -- PHOTO

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Clint Eastwood's mega-hit American Sniper was the top film at North American movie houses for a second week, despite controversy over what some feel is a jingoistic message and graphic violence.

The war drama, based on the true story of Iraq War Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, earned US$64.4 million (S$86.59 million) this weekend, industry estimates showed, after last weekend's massive haul of nearly US$90 million - a record January opening.

Nearly half of all movie tickets sold over the weekend were for American Sniper and all told, the film has so far earned more than US$200 million since its release, giving it bona fide blockbuster status.

But critics say it glorifies violence and has led to an uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said Muslims are facing increased threats in the United States after the release of the movie American Sniper, because of the way it portrays Arabs and Muslims.

The group said it notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after receiving hundreds of violent messages.

Among other US films this weekend, second place went to The Boy Next Door, a steamy thriller starring pop music diva Jennifer Lopez as a divorcee who has a midlife-crisis affair with a handsome neighbour barely out of his teens. It earned $15 million, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Paddington, a big screen adaptation of the family classic about a bear lost in the big city, took third spot with US$12.4 million in ticket sales.

Action comedy The Wedding Ringer was fourth with US$11 million, Exhibitor Relations said.

Fifth place went to action sequel Taken 3 starring Liam Neeson in his third stint as retired spy Bryan Mills, with US$7.6 million in ticket sales.

For a second straight week, The Imitation Game was in sixth place. It earned US$7.1 million.

The thriller about World War II code-cracking mathematician Alan Turing was near the top of the Oscars nomination list, with eight nods including in several of the top categories.

Musical fairly tale Strange Magic - the first animated movie release by Lucasfilm since its 2012 purchase by Disney - debutted in the seventh spot, grossing US$5.53 million.

Historical drama Selma, depicting the epic 1965 Alabama march led by Martin Luther King in his battle for equal voting rights, was eighth, earning US$5.5 million. The film has been nominated for two Oscars, including best picture.

In ninth place was another newcomer, star-vehicle Mortdecai, whose cast includes Hollywood heavy-hitter Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor.

The movie, in which Depp plays a shady British art dealer and Paltrow, his wife, sold a paltry US$4.1 million in tickets after mostly dismal reviews.

Rounding out the top 10 was Into the Woods, the star-studded big-screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, with a hair under US$3.9 million in tickets sold.