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Box office: 'American Sniper' promises a lengthy culture war, yay!

The Clint Eastwood war drama laid waste to a batch of unpromising newbies.
American Sniper

Audiences once again flocked to watch Bradley Cooper shoot people in "American SniWarner Bros. Pictures

With its only competition a Jennifer Lopez trash-fest, a Johnny Depp mustache movie and a cartoon that pairs Shakespeare with ELO, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” continued to reign over the box office. New pictures “The Boy Next Door,” “Mortdecai” and “Strange Magic” all failed to come anywhere remotely close to the war drama’s second weekend, which was nearly as impressive as its first. “Sniper,” with Bradley Cooper as noted Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, bagged another $64.4 million —only the fourth highest second weekend tally ever.

The good news: Audiences have embraced a serious drama the way they usually take to comic book or YA dystopia movies. Indeed, it’s taken only 10 days for “Sniper” to cross the $200 million mark. The bad news: The hotly debated film will aggressively fan the already enflamed culture wars, yielding still more tiresome pieces in which commentators project ideas onto a film that takes neither a pro- nor anti- stance on its subject (and doesn’t even get into Kyle’s, shall we say, less noble attributes). Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy next few months on your Facebook feeds.

All this said, of the three newbies, only “The Boy Next Door” had what could charitably be called a pretty solid weekend. Produced for only $4 million —and directed by Rob Cohen, who’s used to franchises (“The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx,” the third “Mummy”) —the gender-switched “Fatal Attraction” scared up $15 million. That’s a not bad score for a film that will soon wind into its permanent home as a midnight movie for chuckleheads howling at the part where its psycho bohunk gifts J.Lo with a “first edition” copy of the “Iliad.”

Meanwhile, destined to put to death the advertising concept of flooding subway stations with posters of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a funny mustache, “Mortdecai” became the latest and biggest Johnny Depp bomb, making the kind of money his movies did in the era pre-“Pirates of the Caribbean.” In fact, its $4.1 million share was lower than even the George Lucas-shepherded passion project “Strange Magic,” which fits a very loose take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Autotune renditions of songs by Elvis, Whitney Huston and the Electric Light Orchestra.

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Elsewhere, “The Imitation Game” crossed $60 million to become, after “Sniper,” the second highest grossing of the current crop of Best Picture nominees, just ahead of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” And “Cake,” the Jennifer Aniston-starring indie that was briefly seen as a major Oscar contender only to score 47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, made $1 million in its theatrical debut.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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