American Sniper: Eastwood’s Most Commercial Film?

Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper took in a record-breaking $5.3 million Thursday night as it began expanding nationwide following Oscar nominations. The war film is up for best picture Oscar, while Bradley Cooper landed a nomination for best actor.

That’s the biggest Thursday night gross of all time for an R-rated drama.

From Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, American Sniper is poised to score the biggest wide opening of Clint Eastwood‘s career as a director. It is also expected to nab the top opening ever for the month of January with a four-day gross of $50 million over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

Fandango reports that advance ticket sales for American Sniper jumped a historic 264 percent on Thursday.

American Sniper, based on the real-life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, debuted on Christmas Day in four theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas — Kyle was from Texas — where it has done huge business, posting record-breaking locations averages and grossing north of $3 million.

The $60 million movie is unique in appealing to both art house audiences and to more politically conservative moviegoers.

To date, Grand Torino ($29.5 million) is Eastwood’s top opening as a director

As I pointed out in my review, American Sniper may be one of Eastwood’s most misunderstood and most underestimated critics.  According to RottenTomatoes, the film has 74 percent rate of approval.

For me, American Sniper is Eastwood’s strongest film in a decade–since Letters from Iwo Jima, which was Oscar nominated in 2006–and one of his very best films.