'American Sniper' now ranks as No. 1 war movie at the box office

Why audiences, veterans like 'American Sniper'

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper's "American Sniper" is now the war movie to top all war movies.

At the domestic box office, the movie -- a dramatic retelling of real-life sniper Chris Kyle's four tours of duty in Iraq -- has made almost $250 million.

That's enough to pass "Saving Private Ryan," which was previously the country's highest-grossing war movie.

The movie's distributor, Warner Bros., noted that "Sniper" was the new record-holder after about three weeks in wide release.

"Sniper" set a number of other records when it premiered nationwide in mid-January.

It has since remained No. 1, although ticket sales slowed during Super Bowl weekend, which is typically a sluggish period for movie theaters.

"Sniper" earned $30.8 million this past Friday through Sunday, narrowly missing out on the title of "Best Super Bowl Box Office Weekend."

The war movie milestone is significant.

Critically-acclaimed movies set in Iraq, like "The Hurt Locker," and other post-9/11 features like "Zero Dark Thirty," earned just a fraction of what "Sniper" has earned to date.

"Saving Private Ryan" made about $216 million in North America when it came out in 1998.

Of course, movie tickets cost a lot less back then, and these sorts of Hollywood records don't account for inflation.

"American Sniper" may eventually become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in Hollywood history -- that is, if it can top 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," which earned $370 million domestically.

Related: What makes 'American Sniper' different?

Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president, said "Sniper" is being propelled by ticket sales in small towns all across the country, supplementing the big cities where multiplexes rule.

Warner Bros. and CNN, the parent of this web site, are both owned by Time Warner (TWX).

Internationally, "Sniper" has earned another $67 million, for an overall total of $316.2 million to date.

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