The Afghan war drama “Lone Survivor” blasted past expectations and its rivals with a huge $14.4 million Friday, and the gritty tale of courage and honor is on pace for a weekend in the $38 million range.
The searing and violent tale of military heroism was a hit with critics, but the massive Friday showing indicates its patriotic themes struck a major chord with mainstream audiences – who not only showed up in unexpected numbers but gave it a rare “A+” CinemaScore.
Disney’s animated hit “Frozen,” last weekend’s No. 1 movie, was a distant second with $3.1 million Friday from a market high 3,231 theaters, and is looking at a $15 million eighth week. It’s now surpassed $305 million domestically and $644 million globally.
The Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts dysfunctional family comedy “August: Osage County” was out-performing another expanding Oscar hopeful, Spike Jonze’s computer love comedy “Her.” The weekend’s only wide opener, “Hercules,” ran third Friday but will struggle to hit $10 million for weekend. “Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle” were fourth and fifth after Friday.
“Lone Survivor” was adapted and directed by Peter Berg and is based on the book of the same name by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana and Ben Foster co-star in the drama, which averaged a strong $5,010 on its 2,875 theaters Friday.
In addition to the major markets, Universal’s marketing targeted the Heartland and cities with large military populations like San Diego, and it is connecting. With author Luttrell front and center, “Lone Survivor” received plenty of attention on the news circuit in the run-up to its wide debut as well, and that’s plainly helping.
“Lone Survivor,” which has been playing Oscar-qualifying runs in New York and Los Angeles for the past two weekends, is on track to easily best the mid-January expansions of two other recent war movies. Last year’s “Zero Dark Thirty came in at $24.4 million and 2001’s “Black Hawk Down” opened wide with $28.6 million. And this will be a far cry from Berg and Kitsch’s last military-themed outing for Universal, last year’s pricey domestic bomb “Battleship.”
The Weinstein Company’s “August: Osage County” took in $2.2 million Friday and was seventh, after expanding from five theaters to 905. That’s a $2,431 per-screen average for Tracy Letts’ adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and it should finish the weekend at around $7 million.
“Her,” which features Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls for his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), took in $1.8 million Friday, after expanding from 47 theaters to 1.729. That’s a so-so $1,041 per-screen average for the Warner Bros. comedy, which is on pace for $5.6 million over the three days and is currently in tenth place.
Summit’s 3D “Hercules,” directed by Renny Harlin and starring “Twilight” alum Kellan Lutz, brought in $3 million from 2,104 locations Friday. That puts it on pace for an $8.5 million first weekend, in line with low expectations for the action adventure financed by Millennium Entertainment.
It is the first of two movies about the ancient hero set for this year. Paramount and MGM’s “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” directed by Brett Ratner and starring Dwayne Johnson, will hit theaters in July.
Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street,” which topped the box office from Tuesday to Thursday, took in $2.7 million from 2,521 locations Friday, off just 37 percent from last week. The R-rated black comedy starring Leonardo Di Caprio should come in around $8.8 million for the weekend and has topped $70 million domestically in its third weekend for Paramount.
Sony’s quirky David O. Russell con man comedy “American Hustle” brought in $2.5 million – just a 38 percent drop – on Friday. That translates to $8.2 million for the three days and it is about to top $100 million domestically in its fifth week.
Warner Bros.’ blockbuster “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is still in 3,075 theaters and took in $2 million Friday for sixth. That puts it on track for a $7.5 million weekend, and Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth tale has now topped $236 million domestically and $760 million worldwide in five weeks.
Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” was eighth Friday, after bringing in $1.9 million. That puts the Tom Hanks-Emma Thompson drama about the making of “Mary Poppins” on pace for $6.3 million fifth week and raises its domestic total to $64 million.
Last weekend’s No. 2 movie, the horror spin-off “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” took a 76 percent tumble from last Friday and brought in.$2.1 million. It will wind up at around $6 million for the three days for Paramount.
Another awards contender, CBS Films’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” also expanded, from 156 to 729 theaters. Ethan and Joel Coen’s take on the 1961 Greenwich Village folk scene brought in $551,000 for a $756 per-screen average.