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‘Mama’ Screams Past Oscar Contenders, Openers For $33M Box Office Win

"Zero Dark Thirty" is second, giving Jessica Chastain the top two films. "Silver Linings Playbook" third in expansion and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Last Stand" tanks

The horror movie “Mama” roared past Oscar contenders and other openers featuring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Arnold Schwarzenegger and is on its way to winning the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday box office weekend with $33 million.

The Guillermo del Toro-produced supernatural thriller is the second horror film to win the weekend box office this month, with “Texas Chainsaw 3D' the top moneymaker two weeks ago. Universal's supernatural thriller, starring Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, far exceeded the $22 million analysts had projected for the four days.

So how to explain a $15 million horror film beating out a host of Oscar contenders and openers with bigger-name stars?

"There hasn't been anything in the market for young women in some time," Universal's head of distribution Nikki Rocco told TheWrap Sunday, "and there's not much rated PG-13 out there right now."

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"Mama" hit the mark on its demographic target. Sixty-one percent of the audience, which gave the film a "B-" CinemaScore, were women, and 63 percent were under 25 years old. 

The marketing campaign was right on the money, too, Rocco said.

"While this was definitely a scary movie, it was clear that there wasn't a bunch of blood and guts," Rocco said. "It looked like a fun experience."

Chastain starred in the weekend's top two films. Sony's “Zero Dark Thirty,” for which she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, was second and the Best Picture Oscar nominee is expected to hit $21.4 million for the long weekend.

Kathryn Bigelow's tale of the hunt for Osama bin Laden fell off 28 percent from last week and its overall domestic total now stands at nearly $56 million after five weeks.

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It beat out “Silver Linings Playbook,” the oddball comedy that went nationwide this weekend in the wake of its Best Picture Oscar nomination, but no one at the distributing Weinstein Company was complaining. “Silver Linings” should finish the four days at around $14 million after Weinstein upped its theater count by 1,713 locations to 2,523. Its overall total stands at $58 million.

"We really weren't worried about position," Weinstein's head of distribution Erik Lomis told TheWrap Sunday.  The company's plan to delay the nationwide expansion until the second weekend after the Oscar nominations is looking pretty good right now. "To do this well after 10 weeks in the marketplace is a great feeling," he said.

Lomis said that the fact that the actors, several of whom has been working on other projects, were doing publicity for the film was helping. All four lead actors were Oscar nominated. Jennifer Lawrence, who received a Best Actress nomination, was on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. Bradley Cooper is a Best Actor finalist and Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were nominees in the supporting categories.

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The news wasn't so good for two other openers, both of which targeted action audiences and came in well below expectations.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's first starring role in 9 years, “The Last Stand,” flopped and is looking at a dismal $7.3 million total and a ninth-place finish for Lionsgate. Audiences, which were 60 percent male and 78 percent over 25 years of age, gave the film a "B" CinemaScore.

Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe's “Broken City” debuted with $11 million for the four days for Fox and will finish fourth for the weekend.  Audiences gave it a "B" CinemaScore, and broke down 58 percent male and 78 percent over 25.

Analysts had predicted $10 million for “The Last Stand” and $14 million for “Broken City” over the four days.

Warner Bros.' “Gangster Squad” is on pace for around $11 million over the four days and will take fifth in its second week, just ahead of horror spoof “Haunted House,” which is looking at about $10 million for the long weekend.

Three Best Picture Oscar nominees were in the same range.

"Django Unchained" will bring in around $10 million for the four days. The Weinsteins' slave saga last week become director Quentin Tarantino's highest-grossing film ever, with $138.3 million, surpassing the $120 million domestic haul of his 2009 film "Inglourious Basterds."

Universal's "Les Miserables" is looking at $9.5 million over the four days. Universal's star-studded musical has taken in $124 million domestically since opening on Christmas Day against "Django," and more than $280 million worldwide.

DreamWorks' "Lincoln" should wind up around $6.7 million after Monday's holiday. Director Stephen Spielberg's tale of the President Abraham Lincoln's fight to abolish slavery was off just 15 percent from last week for the three-day weekend and has brought in nearly $160 million in is 11 weeks of release.