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‘Ride Along’ In High Gear, ‘Hustle’ Tops Oscar Contenders at Friday Box Office

The Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy is on $40M pace for Martin Luther King Day weekend; ”The Nut Job“ is beating ”Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit“

“Ride Along” kicked it into overdrive at the box office Friday with a huge $14.4 million first day. The animated kids movie “The Nut Job” had a strong debut too, and was beating the Martin Luther King Day weekend’s other two openers, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and the horror film “Devil’s Due.”

The Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy was blowing the doors off analysts’ expectations and heading for around $40 million for the four days. It received an “A” CinemaScore from audiences, and is in range of the best MLK weekend ever, which was the $46.1 “Cloverfield” opened with in 2008.

The big opening for “Ride Along” was the second in a row for distributor Universal, which last weekend saw its Afghan War drama “Lone Survivor” explode with a similarly massive first day and go on to finish No. 1. The Mark Wahlberg action film was running second after a $6.6 million Friday, and is looking at a four-day total near $27 million.

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Both of those films target males, and their over-performance isn’t helping the Chris Pine spy saga “Shadow Recruit,” which Paramount is hoping can reboot its “Jack Ryan” franchise after 12 years.

The Kenneth Branaugh-directed PG-13-rated thriller was running fifth after a $5.4 million Friday that put it on pace for an $18 million four-day total, just meeting the studio’s projection. First-night audiences gave it a “B” CinemaScore.

The animated family film “The Nut Job” opened in third with an impressive $4.8 million Friday. The first animated release from Open Road beat “Frozen,” which was fourth with $2.5 million Friday, and is heading for a $24 million four-day total – way above pre-release expectations. Will Arnett voices the squirrel Surly in “The Nut Job,” which also features Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Liam Neeson and Katherine Heigl. Its CinemaScore was a “B.”

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Disney’s animated blockbuster “Frozen” continues to show incredible staying power. It was off just 19 percent from last Friday and is on pace for a sixth week north of $18 million for four days. It has raised its total to $323 million domestically and more than $715 million globally.

The overall weekend – with four wide openers and several expanding or re-released Best Picture Oscar nominees — is extremely crowded and is on pace to hit $200 million.

Fox’s R-rated “Devil’s Due” had a $3.4 million first-day Friday and is looking at around $10 million for the long weekend, in line with modest expectations for the low-budget chiller. Its CinemaScore was a “D+” — low even for typically tough-grading horror fans.

“Devil’s Due” was running seventh behind “American Hustle,” by far the best performing of the Oscar contenders.

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David O. Russell’s quirky con man comedy actually rose 11 percent from last Friday despite dropping about 425 screens and took in $2.8 million, a clear indicator that Thursday’s slew of Oscar nominations caught moviegoers’ attention. It’s on pace for roughly $12 million over the four days, and has upped its domestic total to $108 million.

In eighth was “August: Osage County.” The Weinstein Company added 1,146 theaters in the wake of Oscar nominations for stars Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts, and it took in just over $2 million Friday. That’s a so-so $1,010 per-screen average that translates to a four-day total of around $9 million.

Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” was ninth and looking at more than $8 million for the long weekend after taking in $2 million Friday. The R-rated black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill is up to $82 million domestically.

Warner Bros.’ “Her” didn’t get much of a bump from its Best Picture Oscar nomination. The Joaquin Phoenix romance about a man who falls for his operating system took in $1.1 million from 1,165 screens, a soft $655,000 per-screen average.

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None of the re-released Oscar hopefuls did much. Warner Bros.’ “Gravity,” which was back on 944 screens, brought in $467,000.  Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” did $388,000 in 761 theaters and Sony’s “Captain Phillips” was in 904 theaters and took in just $140,000.

TWC’s “Philomena” brought in $356,000 from 506 theaters, Paramount’s “Nebraska” took in $243,000 from 408 sites and Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club” added $237,000 from 419 locations.