‘American Sniper’ Aims for $60 Million, Jennifer Lopez Scoring With ‘Boy Next Door’

“Mortdecai” extends Johnny Depp’s box-office skid and George Lucas’ kids musical “Strange Magic” goes poof

Last Updated: January 24, 2015 @ 10:39 AM

“American Sniper” intensified its stunning and record-breaking box-office barrage with another $18.3 million on Friday. The tale of a top U.S. marksman coming home a changed man again blew past analysts’ projections and is heading for a three-day haul of more than $60 million, which would be easily the best second weekend in January ever.

The Clint Eastwood-directed Iraq War saga starring Bradley Cooper raised its domestic total to $154 million and could hit $200 million by Sunday for Warner Bros. And the R-rated Best Picture Oscar nominee from Village Roadshow stole the spotlight from three new movies from Hollywood heavyweights.

Jennifer Lopez was scoring with the R-rated ”The Boy Next Door.” The sexy low-budget thriller from horror king Jason Blum took in a better-than-expected $5.6 million for second place on Friday and is heading for a $15.6 million opening weekend for Universal Pictures.

But the debuts of Johnny Depp’s ensemble comedy “Mortdecai” and George Lucas’ animated kids musical “Strange Magic” were duds. Both took in less than $1.5 million Friday and could finish the weekend under $5 million, about half of their studios and analysts’ expectations, which were low to begin with.

Producer Blum may be just as big a factor as JLo in the success of “The Boy Next Door,” after bringing his micro-budget sensibilities to the $4 million thriller that co-stars Ryan Guzman and is directed by Rob Cohen.

That made it a financial win going in for Universal Pictures, which recently sealed a 10-year deal with Blum. His Blumhouse Productions is diversifying, and the “Paranormal Activity” producer stepped outside the horror genre earlier this year with “Whiplash,” the $3 million Sony Classics music-school drama nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

On its current pace, “The Boy Next Door” will be the best opening for Lopez since the $23 million debut of “Monster-In-Law” in 2005. It was soon after that film that the pop diva put her acting career on the back burner to focus on music.

Audiences sparked to “Boy Next Door” more than the critics, just 11 percent of whom gave it a positive notice on Rotten Tomatoes, and gave it a B-” CinemaScore.

Lionsgate Entertainment’s art-heist comedy “Mortdecai” has plenty of star power, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn and others. But the focus is on Depp because he hasn’t had a box office hit since 2011’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the $1 billion Disney blockbuster.

The dismal reviews, which have it at just 13 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, didn’t help. Nor will the dismal “C+” CinemaScore grade it received from first-night audiences. But the weak opening won’t be the end of the world for Depp or Lionsgate.

The actor is rich and has another “Pirates” movie coming in 2017. And Lionsgate is getting off relatively easily, since “Mortdecai” had a reasonable $40 million dollar production budget. That’s a lot less than the cost of Depp’s last three box-office belly flops, “Transcendence” ($100 million), “The Lone Ranger” ($225 million) and “Dark Shadows” ($150 million).

Disney’s “Strange Magic,” the computer-generated musical fairy tale from “Star Wars creator Lucas, took in just $1.3 million from 3,020 locations and will finish its first weekend with around $5 million.

The fairies-and-elves tale features songs like “Love Is Strange” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” sung by a voice cast that includes Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Maya Rudolph and Kristin Chenoweth, who also appears in “Boy Next Door.”

The critics bashed “Strange Magic,” and have it at 11 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were slightly more impressed and gave it a “B-” on CinemaScore.

It appears to have taken a hit from another family film, “Paddington.” The live action-CGI hybrid tale of the beloved British bear from “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman is heading for $12 million and third place in its second weekend, after taking in $2.6 million Friday for the Weinstein Company. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Bonneville of TV’s “Downton Abbey” star for writer-director Paul King.

After taking in $3.3 million on Friday, Sony Pictures’ Kevin Hart-Josh Gad comedy “The Wedding Ringer” should finish fourth with around $11 million in its second weekend. That would be a solid hold, down around 47 percent from last weekend’s debut, the best ever for an R-rated comedy in January.

Liam Neeson’s “Taken 3” followed and could finish fifth after a $2 million Friday that put the 20th Century Fox franchise finale on pace for a $7 million third weekend that would lift its domestic total to $75 million.

But it will have to hold off “The Imitation Game.” The Weinstein Company jumped the historical drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch by 414 theaters on Friday, and it brought in nearly $2 million from 2,025 locations. It will finish the three days with around $7 million too, which would up its domestic total to $60 million and lift it past “The Grand Budapest Hotel” as the second-highest grossing Best Picture Oscar-nominated film this year.

The highest grossing by far is “American Sniper.” Jason Hall’s adaptation of the autobiography of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle will have grossed more than $230 million globally by the end of the weekend.