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Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken,’ ‘Into the Woods’ Explode at Christmas Day Box Office

Both openers heading for $40 million weekends as huge holiday reverses weeks-long slump

The Angelina Jolie-directed “Unbroken” and Disney’s musical “Into the Woods” led the way Thursday, as moviegoers turned out in force on a busy Christmas Day that reversed a weeks-long slump at box office.

Universal’s inspirational tale of Olympic and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller and starring Jack O’Connell, exploded for an estimated $15.6 million in its first day. The third-best Christmas Day opening ever puts “Unbroken” on course for more than $40 million over the four days – roughly double what the studio and analysts had projected.

“Into the Woods,”  the star-laden, big-screen take on Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway smash, wasn’t far behind with an estimated $15 million. It’s heading for north of $40 million as well, more than $10 million over pre-release projections for the Rob Marshall-directed adaptation starring Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.

New Line and MGM’s blockbuster “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” should make it a three-way fight for No. 1 this weekend, after taking in $13.1 million as it began its second week in release for Warner Bros.

The major Christmas Day turnout reverses a nearly month-long skid at the overall box office and eases some fears of a dismal holiday season for Hollywood. And the big first day for “Unbroken” trails only the $24.6 million of “Sherlock Holmes” in 2009 and the $18.1 million posted by “Les Miserables” in 2012 for the biggest Christmas Day haul ever.

Paramount’s Mark Wahlberg crime drama “The Gambler” and the Weinstein Company’s Tim Burton-directed “Big Eyes” also opened wide Thursday.

“The Gambler,” a remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan, topped expectations with $5 million first day and should top the $12 million four-day haul the studio had predicted.

“Big Eyes,” the tale of artist Margaret Keane starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, earned $1.5 million from 1,307 theaters. That’s considerably fewer than the other wide openers “Unbroken” (3,131), “Into the Woods” (2,441) and “The Gambler” (2,478) and the market-high 3,875 of “The Hobbit.”

Director Ava DuVernay’s civil rights drama “Selma” brought in roughly $322,000 from 19 locations in its debut for Paramount. That’s a nearly $17,000 per-theater average for the Oscar frontunner, which stars David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson and Giovanni Ribisi.

TWC expanded its awards hopeful “The Imitation Game” from 34 to 747 theaters on Thursday and it took in $3.1 million. The Morten Tyldum–directed drama stars Benedict Cumberbatch as British cryptologist Alan Turing, who helped crack Nazi codes during World War II. Keira Knightley co-stars.