Lone Survivor Defeats Hercules with $38.5 Million Opening for Box Office Win

Lone Survivor Defeats Hercules with $38.5 Million Opening for Box Office WinAfter a two-week limited run, Universal’s military drama Lone Survivor went nationwide and came close to capturing a record January gross in the process at the North American box office. Fellow debut The Legend of Hercules proved to be a weakling in its third place debut, while several other Oscar hopefuls expanded their runs nationwide to mixed results. With the NFL Playoffs in full swing and parts of the nation continuing to battle winter weather, the top ten found itself almost even with the top ten from one year ago when Zero Dark Thirty ruled the top spot with $24.4 million.

Following the debacle that was 2012’s Battleship, filmmaker Peter Berg needed a big box office hit to help him rebound. Given the $38.5 million reception his latest feature, Lone Survivor, received this weekend on 2,875 screens it appears he has found it. The $40 million production, starring Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Eric Bana, scored the second-best all-time weekend gross for a January release (Cloverfield continues to hold the record with a $40.5 million gross six years ago). The $13,395 per screen average was the best in the top ten and was particularly impressive given the film’s “R” rating and subject matter.

Based on the true-life New York Times bestseller about four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated mission to kill a high-level Taliban leader, Lone Survivor scored decent notices from critics (73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) but really scored with ticket buyers. Opening day crowds bestowed Survivor with an “A+” CinemaScore rating, which should translate into solid word-of-mouth and a successful run at the box office. The film could even find itself armed with additional firepower should Hollywood bestow it some Oscar nomination love later this week.

Another film that is all but guaranteed to see nominations this week is Disney’s animated hit Frozen, which continues to bring in big crowds as it enters its second month of release. The 3D blockbuster eased a mere 23% from last weekend to earn $15 million from 3,239 theaters. The domestic total now stands at $317.6 million, which puts it just past Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the all-time domestic chart (pre-inflation, of course). Overseas markets have contributed $394.6 million thus far. With Japan and China yet to open, the $900 million mark for global sales is a strong possibility.

Nothing sells a movie like controversy, and all that whining about Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has only made people more and more curious about it. After taking over the top box office spot from Tuesday through Thursday, the dark comedy entered its third weekend and slid a mere 32% to earn an estimated $9 million on 2,521 screens. To date, Jordan and Donnie have conned a solid $78.6 million thus far domestically and should cross the $100 million mark in the next few weeks. Overseas markets have earned $18.5 million thus far.

In fourth place was the debut of the Lionsgate/Summit feature The Legend of Hercules with a meek $8.6 million from 2,104 theaters. The Renny Harlin-directed feature was decimated by critics (a whopping 2% Rotten Tomatoes rating), which did little to help the film’s box office chances. The TV ads that made it look like a cheap SyFy channel movie (truth in advertising?) were of little assistance as well. Lionsgate probably isn’t fretting too much of the non-opening of Hercules. Not only is their investment on Herc minimal (they only paid for distribution rights), their blockbuster Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire became the highest domestic grossing film of 2013 this past week.

Rounding out the top five was Sony’s R-rated hit American Hustle, which crossed the $100 million mark today. For its fifth weekend, the David O. Russell feature earned an estimated $8.6 million from 2,629 theaters. Off 31% from last weekend, Hustle has earned $101.5 million and should continue to roll in the dough as the Oscar nominations come into play.

Speaking of Hollywood’s annual pat on the back ceremony, four films added a substantial amount of theaters in anticipation of the nomination announcement this week. Of the quartet, only August: Osage County made any sort of real impact. The star-studded comedy/drama expanded its run to 905 theaters to earn a promising $7.3 million and a solid per-screen average of $8,083. After three weeks, the movie has earned $7.8 million. Warner went wide with the Spike Jonze comedy Her but didn’t find too many takers for the unique relationship comedy. Her earned $5.4 million from 1,729 theaters and found itself just outside the top ten. To date, the film has earned $8.8 million and could get some help from Oscar nominations (it’s a great film well worth your time and money).

The news wasn’t much better for CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis. The brilliant Coen Brothers comedy expanded to 729 theaters but could only bring in $1.8 million. It’s total to date is $9.3 million. Like Her, Llewyn could see a boost should it nab some major nominations this week. Rounding out the quartet was Paramount Classics’ Nebraska. The Alexander Payne feature played on 581 screens this weekend and could only manage $820,000 in its ninth weekend. To date, the Bruce Dern feature has earned $8.1 million.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner/MGM) $8 million (-49%); $242.2 million

8. Saving Mr. Banks (Disney) $6.5 million (-24.3%); $68.9 million

9. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Paramount) $6.3 million (-65.7%); $28.4 million

10. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount) $6.1 million (-43%); $118.5 million

Next weekend, Paramount debuts Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Fox opens Devil’s Due, Universal gives us the comedy Ride Along while Open Road Films offers up families The Nut Job. Watch for Jack Ryan to face off against Lone Survivor to see who commands the number one spot.

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