The film "American Sniper" has become a smash hit, as it draws big crowds in the South and in Washington, D.C., where receipts were up 102 percent on Saturday, according to a box office report.

The movie about the Navy SEAL credited with the most kills in U.S. military history broke box office records upon its release and is reportedly headed toward gross earnings of $300 million, a big achievement for Warner Brothers and director Clint Eastwood. 

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"American Sniper" earned $200.1 million through Sunday in the United States after raking in $64.4 million on Saturday and Sunday, the third-highest January weekend for a film. It remains at the top of the box office in North America for a second week.

The story of the late Chris Kyle has sparked debate over the moral gray areas of the Iraq War. A former rancher and rodeo cowboy, Kyle served four tours in Iraq and shot a record 160-plus people as a sniper.

The film received strong marks from critics and eight Oscar nominations. While audiences flocked to theaters around the country, interest was particularly strong in the South and the heartland, analysts said: Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla., saw viewership up 63 percent on Saturday, while audiences in Cleveland grew by 73 percent.

"Many exhibitors are hearing from their theater managers that the infrequent moviegoers who go only two to three times a year, are coming out to see this movie," Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman told Deadline Hollywood, an industry publication. "This a movie about patriotism, recognizing heroes, those who served; it’s about family."

American Sniper has also generated controversy in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and actor Seth Rogen criticized the film after its release for glorifying violence. Their comments were met with an immediate backlash from Republican lawmakers and pundits, who called Kyle a hero.

“The petulant, knee-jerk backlash vs American Sniper is driven by fear of facing the idea that maybe our soldiers fought for a just cause,” tweeted Dan McLaughlin, a contributor at RedState.

Other commentators said Eastwood, who opposed the Iraq War, should have done more to challenge Kyle's black-and-white view of Muslim insurgents, who he repeatedly calls "savages" and "evil."

“The problem is that the film makes no attempt to tell us anything beyond Kyle’s limited comprehension of what was happening,” wrote Peter Maass for The Intercept, a publication founded by Glenn Greenwald.

Maass criticizes the movie, which was based on Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, for giving “a grunt’s view that the people killed in Iraq were animals deserving their six-feet-under fate” without any further discussion or context.