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'American Sniper' draws $105.3 million at box office over MLK holiday weekend

Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in

Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in a scene from "American Sniper." Credit: AP

"American Sniper," the Clint Eastwood-directed drama of real-life Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), has broken three box-office records.

Going into wide release after two limited weekends, the R-rated drama, set during the Iraq War, earned $105.3 million in the United States and Canada, according to the box office analysis firm Rentrak. This made it the highest-grossing film released over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The figure includes an estimated $15,800,000 earned Monday.

Its Friday-to-Sunday take of $89,505,000 far surpassed the $68,490,688 of the best January 2010 weekend for "Avatar", giving "American Sniper" both the highest-earning January weekend and Winter weekend.

"This was maybe the most underestimated film of all time, considering that it did about twice what estimates predicted," Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told The Associated Press.

The film, nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor and Adapted Screenplay, skirted controversy after media reports initially claimed liberal filmmaker Michael Moore had criticized it. "My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse," Moore tweeted Sunday, prompting a conservative-media backlash.

The Hollywood Reporter and, however, retracted initial claims Moore was referring to "American Sniper," and the filmmaker responded to criticism on his Facebook page.

"Lots of talk about snipers this weekend (the holiday weekend of a great man, killed by a sniper)," Moore wrote, referring to Civil Rights activist King. " . . . My dad was in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific in World War II. His brother, my uncle, Lawrence Moore, was an Army paratrooper and was killed by a Japanese sniper 70 years ago next month. My dad always said, 'Snipers are cowards. . . . ' "

But Moore praised the film itself, citing an "awesome performance from Bradley Cooper. One of the best of the year. Great editing. Costumes, hair, makeup superb! . . . [T]oo bad Clint gets Vietnam and Iraq confused in his storytelling. And that he has his characters calling Iraqis 'savages' throughout the film. But there is also anti-war sentiment expressed in the movie. And there's a touching ending. . . . "

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