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‘American Sniper’ Looks to Steamroll ‘Project Almanac,’ ‘Black or White’ at Super Bowl Box Office

Iraq War saga seeks 3rd straight win against three new films including “The Loft”

With the Super Bowl kicking off Sunday, it seems somehow appropriate that we’re looking at another “American Sniper” blowout at the box office this weekend.

The NFL’s biggest game has seen more than its share of lopsided contests over the years, and if Las Vegas set odds on the movies, the breakout hit from Warner Bros. would be a 35-point favorite.

Three movies will debut nationwide Friday: the teen time-travel tale “Project Almanac,” Kevin Costner’s race relations drama “Black or White” and the high-concept thriller “The Loft.” They may eventually make money for their backers, but this weekend they’ll get sacked just like the seven other films that have opened wide against the Clint Eastwood-directed Iraq War saga over the past two weeks.

But Sunday’s Super Bowl will distract many potential moviegoers, and the nasty East Coast weather could chill business too, or not.

“Three feet of snow can’t stop this train,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. distribution chief, and it hasn’t so far. “American Sniper” took in $4 million on Monday and $5 million Tuesday, when New York City was shut down for the blizzard.

Even without much competition, there’s been excitement since “American Sniper” began its record-breaking expanded run on Jan. 16, the day after it was awarded a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and five others. After setting January and Martin Luther King holiday records with its opening, it has made $210 million in 12 days domestically and is on pace to take in more than $350 million. Village Roadshow’s adaptation of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s autobiography has a shot at becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever, ahead of “Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which topped out at $371 million in 2004.

Those numbers are hard to argue with, and the analysts aren’t. “American Sniper,” which stars Bradley Cooper as a lethal marksman struggling in his return home to his family, is expected to roll up another $30 million this weekend.

“Project Almanac” could hit $15 million they believe, though distributor Paramount Pictures is more conservative in its projection. Relativity Studios is anticipating between $7 million and $9 million for “Black or White,” while the R-rated Dutch import “The Loft” is looking at around $5 million for Open Road Films.

None of the newcomers are making much noise on social media, and “Project Almanac” is the only one on BoxOffice.com’s current list of 20 most-Tweeted movies at No. 19.  All three trail “American Sniper” – and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” too – in advance sales at online ticket broker Fandango.

“Sniper” remains in a market=high 3,705 theaters. That’s roughly 900 more than “Project Almanac” and more than double the screen counts of the other two movies.

project almanac

MTV Films came aboard to partner with Platinum Dunes and Paramount’s Insurge Pictures on “Project Almanac” last year, after it was pushed from its original February 2014 release date. That should help it connect with the young crowd, the primary target of the found-footage sci-fi tale.

Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Virginia Gardner and Allen Evangelista star as teens who find plans for a time machine and build their own. Dean Israelite directs from a script by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman.

The production budget on “Project Almanac” was $12 million, so the profitability bar is well within reach. Michael Bay and Brad Fuller of Platinum Dunes produced, along with Andrew Form.

It will be in more than 2,800 theaters.

black or white

Costner, who financed the racially charged “Black or White” with Rod Lake after the major studios passed, also stars and is a producer. It’s a Relativity and Treehouse Films production in association with Sunlight Productions and IM Global.

In it, Costner plays a lawyer whose wife is killed in a car crash, leaving him to care for his beloved biracial granddaughter. Her paternal grandmother, played by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, and her brother (Anthony Mackie) seek custody and the little girl is torn between the two families.

Jillian Estell, Andre Holland, Bill Burr and Mpho Koaho co-star in the PG-13-rated “Black or White,” which was scripted and directed by Costner’s production partner Mike Binder. He also produced, with Costner and Todd Lewis

Costner hasn’t revealed the production budget of the film, which Relativity will have in roughly 1,700 theaters.

the loft

“The Loft” is Belgian director Erik Van Looy’s English-language remake of his 2008 Dutch-language thriller of the same name.

Karl Urban and James Marsden star in the murder mystery, which revolves around a loft used by five married men to meet their mistresses.

Eric Stonestreet from TV’s “Modern Family” co-stars, along with Wentworth Miller, Rhona Mitra and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who appeared in the original film.

Open Road, which took over as distributor after Universal Pictures dropped out last year, will have it in 1,841 theaters.

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