NEW YORK (AP/WCCO) — Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama “American Sniper” opened in January like a superhero movie in July, taking in a record $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. four-day weekend.

The film’s success obliterated forecasts and set numerous box-office records. It easily surpassed “Avatar” to become the biggest January weekend ever.

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This was actually the third week of release for “American Sniper,” which played in just a handful of theaters for two weeks. That release helped stoke demand for the film, in which Bradley Cooper stars as Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle.

The resounding wide-release opening is also tops for the 84-year-old Eastwood. And it, in one weekend, gives the Oscar best-picture race something it was lacking: a big box-office hit. “American Sniper” is nominated for six Academy Awards.

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The book on which the film is based became the subject of a high-profile lawsuit filed by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. A federal jury ruled in favor of Ventura’s in the defamation case, but Kyle’s estate was seeking an appeal.

Ventura was awarded $1.8 million in August in the lawsuit that alleged Chris Kyle made up claims in his book about punching Ventura after he made offensive comments about Navy SEALS at a California bar in 2006. Ventura says it never happened. Both men are former SEALs.

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