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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Comes Out Blazing at Box Office Despite Criticism

Kathryn Bigelow's tale of hunt for Osama bin Laden, "Zero Dark Thirty," averages $82K on five screens in limited debut

The criticisms from politicians and the CIA didn't hurt Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" in its first weekend at the box office.

An Oscar front-runner, Sony's tale of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden brought in $410,000 from five screens in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend. That's a whopping $82,000 per screen, by far the best of any film in release.

Also read: Tom Cruise, Barbra Streisand Humbled by 'Hobbit' at Holiday Box Office

New York's Lincoln Square theater was the top site for "Zero Dark Thirty" with more than $41,000 on Saturday. Hollywood's Arclight Cinema was next with $36,000.

The film has taken in $639,000 since debuting on Wednesday. You can make the case that the criticism could actually help "Zero Dark Thirty" at the box office by keeping it in the headlines and piquing the interest of moviegoers.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have defended the film from critics on the left and right side of the political spectrum, and in particular against the charge that the film is an apology for U.S. torture tactics.

Also read: Kathryn Bigelow Denies 'Zero Dark Thirty' Apologizes for Torture (Exclusive

Last week, Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin wrote a scathing letter to Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, condemning "Zero Dark Thirty" for its suggestion that the use of torture played a part in locating terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Also read: CIA Says 'Zero Dark Thirty' Not a Realistic Portrayal, but Does Admit Torture Was Used

In an open letter Friday, CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, noted that the movie was "not a realistic portrayal of facts"; that the effort was a team effort and not just of one woman (referring to the film's Maya, played by Jessica Chastain). He admitted that "advanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program" (read: waterboarding and other tortures)" but said that they "did not alone contribute to finding bin Laden."

Morell did not refute that torture was used, but said there were "many other sources as well."