Lone Survivor easily dominated in its first weekend in wide release. The real-life war drama took in an estimated $38.8 million from 2,876 locations – doubling its studio’s pre-release projection of $19 million. Along with its surprising windfall, Lone Survivor now claims the second-highest January opening of all time, behind the $40 million of 2008’s Cloverfield.
|3.||The Wolf of Wall Street||$9,000,000||$78.5|
|4.||The Legend Of Hercules||$8,600,000||$8.6|
|6.||The Hobbit 2||$8,015,000||$242.2|
|7.||August: Osage County||$7,315,000||$7.8|
|8.||Saving Mr. Banks||$6,578,000||$68.9|
|9.||Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones||$6,300,000||$28.4|
|10.|| Anchorman 2
More box office news after the jump.
Lone Survivor is based on a book by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of a disastrous 2005 operation in Afghanistan. Not too long ago, a movie on this subject would have had a hard time at the box office; no one wanted to see war movies while our troops were still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the logic went. And so it was that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture, but failed to find much of an audience during its theatrical run. Other war-related movies – like Stop Loss in 2008, and Green Zone in 2010 – also struggled. Signs that the anti-war movie movement had stalled began to emerge early last year, however, when Zero Dark Thirty and Act of Valor each hit first place with $24.4 million in their respective debuts. No surprise then that $25 million was about as high as most analysts expected Lone Survivor to climb (the film’s distributor was even more cautious, predicting an opening in the high teens).
Given all that, Universal has to be pretty pleased with its Lone Survivor opening. Universal was also behind 2007’s The Kingdom, another war movie misstep of the last decade. Like Lone Survivor, The Kingdom was directed by Peter Berg and was ‘inspired by’ a real military operation: the 2003 bombings of a Saudi Arabian compound. While not strictly a war movie, The Kingdom seemed to suffer from box office battle fatigue nonetheless, opening with $17.1 million on its way to a final worldwide gross of just $86.6 million – from a $70 million budget. Though no official budget has been released for Lone Survivor, $50 million seems about right. That means that Universal should see a decent profit this time out; more than decent if international audiences take an interest.
With Lone Survivor opening stronger than expected, The Legend of Hercules looked like a bit of a weakling by comparison. The first of two feature films featuring the mythic muscle man this year took in an estimated $8.6 from 2,104 locations. That’s less than the reboot of Conan the Barbarian earned for its opening in August 2011, and that film was by no means a success for Lionsgate. Conan cost a reported $90 million and earned less than $50 million worldwide despite its 3D surcharge. With one of the worst Rotten Tomato scores in recent memory (2%) it is hard to imagine Hercules will do much better – in fact, a second life as a bad movie punchline is probably the best that it can hope for.
Three awards season contenders expanded their runs this weekend, with August: Osage County looking strongest. The adaptation of the acclaimed stage play added 900 locations on Friday, for an estimated three-day take of $7.3 million. The ensemble piece, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, has not received the kind of critical buzz the Weinstein Company may have hoped for (the film is currently 65% on Rotten Tomatoes) but, with comparable adult titles like Philomena, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street now well into their runs, a lack of award-season momentum didn’t hurt Osage County in its initial expansion. Whether it can perform as well in wider waters, is the question.
Then again, if critical consensus was really a determining factor at the box office, August: Osage County would have been outdone by Her this weekend. After three weeks in limited release, the Spike Jonze feature made the jump to 1,729 locations on Friday. Despite the fact that Her had almost twice as many venues as Osage County, the comedy grossed less: an estimated $5.4 million. With a near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes rank of 95%, Warner Bros. was hoping for at least $8 million, or about what Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind debuted to back in 2004. But Her is still expected to play well for the next month, especially if it can grab a few more award nominations.
In other box office news, American Hustle crossed the $100 million mark this weekend. At this time last year, director David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was on its way to its final domestic gross of $132 million, earning most of that following the Academy Awards. That means that American Hustle should end up as Russell’s most successful release ever, with or without Academy Awards. Last weekend’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones followed a disappointing debut with a disappointing sophomore drop, falling more than 65% all the way down to ninth place. Frozen continued its incredible late-release run, taking second place and bringing its domestic total up to $317.6 million. That makes it number six on the all-time list of computer-animated features, though it should overtake Shrek the Third (in fifth with $322.7) by next weekend.
Overall earnings were down this weekend over the same period in 2013, when Zero Dark Thirty reigned. Next weekend Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the front-runner, with a projected opening in the $24 million range. Of course, that was supposed to be the goal for Lone Survivor as well. With the latter bringing in more than expected this weekend, will Jack Ryan suffer? Sound off below.