The Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy “Ride Along” is blowing the doors off the box-office record for the Martin Luther King Day weekend, and heading for a four-day total of nearly $48 million.
The buddy cop tale was on track to top the mark of $46.1 million set by “Cloverfield” in 2008, and give Universal Pictures its second consecutive weekend win. The $41 million three-day total for “Ride Along” is the best ever in January and marks Ice Cube and Kevin Hart’s highest openings as well.
And for the second week in a row, the leader spectacularly exceeded pre-release projections.
The Afghan War drama “Lone Survivor” exploded for a stunning $38 million win last weekend, and the Mark Wahlberg action film was still running hot. It is on pace to finish with $27.5 million for the long weekend and is in a tight race with Open Road Films’ animated kids movie “The Nut Job,” another over-performer, which should finish in the same range. “The Nut Job” debut is the best for a non-studio animated film ever, easily topping the $16.8 million 2009 opening of “Coraline.”
Also read: SAG Awards Winners: The Complete List
Moviegoers turned out in force Saturday, with almost every film in the top ten seeing significant jumps. The overall box office — with four wide openers and several expanding or re-released Best Picture Oscar nominees — could hit $220 million.
Paramount’s Chris Pine spy thriller “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” was looking at fourth place and $20 million for its first four days, while the weekend’s other wide opener, Fox’s low-budget horror film “Devil’s Due,” was on pace for seventh place with around $10 million.
Sony’s “American Hustle” was the strongest of the Oscar hopefuls this weekend. Director David O. Russell’s quirky con man tale is on pace to take in $12.7 million over the four days, good for sixth place behind Disney’s animated juggernaut “Frozen,” which was heading for $18 million over the long weekend, its eighth in release.
The timing turned out to be ideal for the PG-13-rated “Ride Along,” which Universal picked up in turnaround from New Line last year and is the year’s first broad comedy. It blew past analysts’ projections, which were at $30 million for the long weekend.
“Ride Along” is directed by Tim Story, who directed and produced last year’s comedy “Think Like a Man,” which also starred Hart. That $12 million comedy made $96 million and has spawned a sequel that lands this summer for Sony.
The critics weren’t keen on it, but audiences – which were 50 percent African-American, 54 percent over 25 and a surprisingly high 57 percent female – gave it an “A” CinemaScore.
“We knew the tracking was strong, but we didn’t see it going this high, especially with women,” said Universal’s distribution chief Nikki Rocco. “Maybe it’s Kevin Hart?” The studio has owned the MLK weekend of late, topping the box office last year with “Mama” and the year before that with “Contraband.”
“The Nut Job” is a big win for Open Road, and chief executive Tom Ortenberg said it was something of a perfect storm for the film. Will Arnett voices the squirrel Surly in the animated film, which also features the voices of Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Liam Neeson and Katherine Heigl.
“It turned out to be a great date for us, our marketing team led by Jason Cassidy did a tremendous job and most of all, the movie played great,” he told TheWrap. “The best indicator of that was the trajectory — we were up by about 80 percent from Friday to Saturday.”
Paramount was hoping to reboot its “Jack Ryan” franchise after 12 years with “Shadow Recruit,” but the weekend’s results leave that in doubt. Its $20 million total was in line with what the studio had projected, but the PG-13-rated thriller skewed very old – with 85 percent of the 52 percent male audience over the age of 25.
Both “Ride Along” and “Lone Survivor” targeted young males and that didn’t help the Kenneth Branaugh-directed “Shadow Recruit,” which couldn’t lure the crowd that the “Star Trek” franchise introduced to Pine. “Shadow Recruit,” based on the character created in Tom Clancy’s bestselling novels, connected overseas, however, opening No. 1 in China and 12 other foreign markets and bringing in $22 million from abroad.
Fox’s R-rated “Devil’s Due” is looking at around $10 million for the long weekend, in line with low 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,” which saw a 28 percent spike in attendance over last week, despite being in 425 less theaters. The film’s big showing at last week’s Oscar nomination clearly provided new momentum, and Saturday’s ensemble win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards should only continue that.
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 will bring in around $9 million for the long weekend.
Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” was just behind it and will come in at roughly the same total. The R-rated black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill is up to $91 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 will take in roughly $5 million from 1,165 screens for the four days. It was battling Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” which was shut out at the Oscar nominations, for tenth place.
None of the re-released Oscar hopefuls did much. Warner Bros.’ “Gravity,” which was back on 944 screens, will manage $2.3 million for the long weekend. Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” will do around $1.8 million from 761 theaters and Sony’s “Captain Phillips” was in 904 theaters and will come in with just $650,000.
TWC’s “Philomena” will bring in $1.5 million from 506 theaters for the four days, Paramount’s “Nebraska” should finish at $1.1 million from 408 sites and Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club” will add about the same amount from 419 locations.