By Ramin Setoodeh, Variety.comLOS ANGELES - Will "American Sniper's" gargantuan box office make it a surprise favorite at the Oscars? The Clint Eastwood drama about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is peaking just days before voters are about to receive their ballots on Feb. 6. The Warner Bros. release made an estimated $105.3 million over the long weekend, which is already more than any of the other best picture nominees.
The Academy is often stubbornly immune to popular sentiment, which is why "Avatar" lost to "The Hurt Locker" in 2010. And for that reason, I still think "Boyhood" is going to win best picture. It's the frontrunner that's picked up nearly every precursor award, and "Sniper" missed out on a crucial directing nomination for Eastwood. Only four films in Academy history (including 2012's "Argo") won picture without a director nomination.
But the buzz surrounding "Sniper" could help Bradley Cooper, who landed his third consecutive career acting nomination (after "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle"). Until now, the best actor race has been a two-man battle between Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") and Michael Keaton ("Birdman"). Yet like Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," the crowd-pleasing nature of Cooper's portrait of Kyle -- a role for which he packed on 40 pounds and learned how to fire military rifles -- could result in a last-minute surge.
Brent LangLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "American Sniper" hit the bullseye, earning an astonishing $90.2 million in its debut weekend.
It is now on pace to decimate records for the Martin Luther King holiday and for the month of January, pulling in roughly $105 million over the four-day period. It's also a new high-water mark for director Clint Eastwood, whose previous weekend record was the $29.5 million wide-release opening for 2008's "Gran Torino." At 84, he's still got it.
"The movie has become a cultural phenomenon," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution. "It tore apart the record book and not by a little. By an enormous amount."
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Much has been made of "Birdman" director/co-writer Alejandro G. Inarritu's conceit of making a movie that seems to be one continuous, two-hour shot. The actual filming consisted of long takes edited to look seamless. Each sequence offered challenges, but the Times Square scene introduced special difficulties.
The scene: Actor Riggan (Michael Keaton), wearing only his underpants, gets locked out of Broadway's St. James theater and has to walk past gawking fans in Times Square to get to the theater's main entrance.
Logistical challenge: The production couldn't afford to shut down Times Square or populate it with paid extras, so it risked filming with real onlookers. "We worried about security," Inarritu says. Plus there was a fear someone would stare at the camera or walk into the scene. "There was no possibility to cut away if that happened" since it was one long take, the director notes. "If any scene in the film failed, I could not remove it or manipulate it. It had to be perfect."
Layla A. Jones, philly.com
Philadelphia is one of the eight new cities added to the #SelmaforStudents initiative, which allows students in 7th, 8th and 9th grade to see the new film “Selma” for free with a student ID or report card.
Initially launched in New York City, #SelmaforStudents was spearheaded by a group of African-American business owners who created a fund to send 27,000 students to see the film gratis. It began on Jan. 8 and sold out of tickets in the first weekend.
Led by Lydia Mallett of DuPont, local business leaders hope to raise $20,000 so 2,000 students can view the film for free. Other local business leaders involved include Henri Moore, Charisse Lillie, Les Brun, Shelley Stewart and Harold Epps.
Dave McNary, Variety.comDid the Golden Globes website accidentally announce Sunday’s best picture winners?
On Friday, the HFPA’s official website mistakenly displayed for a short time “Selma” and “Into The Woods” as the two top winners for the 72nd annual Golden Globes, which are set for Sunday night.
Tech company BlueFin took the blame for the error, asserting that it had been merely conducting “random” testing on the site, which for a short time on Friday had listed “Selma” as winner of best motion picture, drama, and “Into the Woods” as best motion picture, musical or comedy.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Independent films "Boyhood" and "Whiplash" as well as superhero blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" received Writers Guild Awards nominations on Wednesday in one of Hollywood's top annual honors.
"Boyhood," a coming-of-age chronicle and early Academy Award best picture favorite, earned a nod for best original screenplay for director Richard Linklater from the Writers Guild of America.
The movie, which Linklater filmed over a dozen years, will vie against wresting biopic "Foxcatcher" by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, as well as jazz drummer tale "Whiplash" by director Damien Chazelle.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Twentieth Century Fox has set Channing Tatum's X-Men spinoff "Gambit" for Oct. 7, 2016.
The Gambit character, who debuted in 1990, is an expert card-thrower and has the power to manipulate kinetic energy.
"Gambit," written by Joshua Zetumer, will be Fox's eighth X-Men movie. "X-Men: Apocalypse" debuts on May 27, 2016.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Even if "American Sniper" missed out on Golden Globe nominations, it still emerged as one of the big winners of the holiday season. Clint Eastwood's drama about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle has grossed a stellar $2.2 million since it opened in only four theaters on Christmas, and the Warner Bros. release expands on Jan. 16.
The Oscar lead actor race is especially overcrowded this year, but as ballots are due on Thursday, voters should take a look -- if they haven't already -- at Bradley Cooper's career-best performance. It's a transformation that had Kyle's widow, Taya, in tears the first time she saw the film, and she's been talking about how Cooper captured her husband's essence. In the last few weeks, many actors, including Ben Affleck, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts and Jonah Hill, have also been singing Cooper's praises.
To play Kyle, Cooper spent six months working out 4.5 hours a day, but the role went beyond the physical. He practiced a Texas drawl with a dialect coach, learned how to shoot three military sniper rifles and spent time with Kyle's family and friends, who gave him access to his emails and home videos.