(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”.
Another new release, "Black or White", debuted in fourth place with $6.5 million. The family drama about a family custody battle, stars Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. Costner helped finance and also produced the film.
Distributor Relativity Studios said it was "confident that adults will continue to come out over the weeks ahead given the film's A- CinemaScore (rating), and growth from Friday to Saturday," noting that the film's second day take exceeded that of opening day.
Rounding out the top five, the Jennifer Lopez thriller "The Boy Next Door" took in $6.1 million, pushing its total since opening last weekend to nearly $25 million.
"American Sniper" was released by Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner Inc. "Paddington" was released by The Weinstein Company. Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., distributed "Project Almanac". Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp., released "The Boy Next Door."
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Stephen Powell)