UPDATE 1-"American Sniper" is top U.S. box office hit for third week

Sun Feb 1, 2015 1:04pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Box office juggernaut "American Sniper" held the top spot at U.S. and Canadian box offices over the weekend with $31.9 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates.

The Oscar-nominated war film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring best actor nominee Bradley Cooper as a Navy Seal sharpshooter easily triumphed over several new releases as it closed in on a domestic total of $250 million since opening on Jan. 16.

Family film "Paddington", based on the series of classic children's books about a loveable bear in search of a home, finished in second with $8.5 million for Friday through Sunday.

In a virtual tie, estimates showed "Paddington" sold just $5,000 more in tickets than sci-fi time travel tale "Project Almanac," which debuted this weekend with $8.5 million. The low-budget, teen-focused film starring Jonny Weston and Sofia Black-D'Elia cost just $12 million to make.

"Sniper"'s continued strong performance helped drive overall box office performance on Super Bowl weekend, when many Americans are focused on the final game of the pro football season.

The hit film was on course to set an all-time record for an individual film on Super Bowl weekend, while total overall box office was up about 23 percent to $103 million from the same weekend a year ago, according to tracking firm Rentrak.

"It is now the highest grossing war film ever, unadjusted for inflation," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, noting "Sniper" had surpassed the $216.2 million of 1998's "Saving Private Ryan".   Continued...