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Universal’s ‘Lone Survivor’ Is Top Film With $37.8 Million

“Lone Survivor,” a military drama based on a 2005 Navy SEAL operation in Afghanistan, topped U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend, collecting $37.8 million for Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures.

The movie, starring Mark Wahlberg, expanded in wide release after a limited debut on Dec. 25. “The Legend of Hercules,” the only mainstream debut, took in $8.87 million for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF) to place third, Rentrak Corp. (RENT) said in an e-mailed statement today.

“Lone Survivor” is Universal’s second No. 1 debut with Wahlberg in less than a year after “2 Guns,” the buddy cop comedy-thriller, placed first in domestic theaters in August. It marks a good start to the year for Universal, which ranked third in gross domestic sales in 2013, helped by receipts from the latest installments of its “Fast & Furious” and “Despicable Me” franchises.

“It’s a great ensemble cast and Wahlberg is a big part of that,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. “He has proven across any genre that he is a consistent box office draw.”

“Lone Survivor” is based on the memoir of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell about a failed U.S. mission to track down an al-Qaeda leader. After a conflict with the Taliban, Luttrell was the only member of the team who returned. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana co-star in the film.

Mythical Hero

The movie, which got a 73 percent positive rating by RottenTomatoes.com, the review aggregator site, was projected to collect $26 million, according to BoxOffice.com.

“What makes ‘Lone Survivor’ work as well as it does are the human exchanges. Whether friend or foe, the moments feels all too real,” wrote Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times.

“Lone Survivor” follows recent mixed success for Hollywood with combat movies. While 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was a success for Sony Corp., “White House Down,” about a terrorist attack on the president, also from Sony, flopped last summer.

The movie was competing in a crowded weekend as studios expanded award-nominated films, such as “Her” with Joaquin Phoenix, into wide release ahead of the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony last night and the Oscar nominations to be announced this week.

“Her,” which won a Golden Globe for best screenplay, took in $5.35 million for Warner Bros. The movie features Phoenix as a writer, Theodore, who develops an emotional relationship with the sultry, disembodied voice of a computer operating system, played by Scarlett Johansson.

‘Llewyn Davis’

The film garnered a 93 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes and was projected to collect $8.5 million.

Other films with nominations that expanded this past weekend were Weinstein Co.’s “August: Osage County,” starring Meryl Streep and Ethan and Joel Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” from CBS Films.

“It’s no coincidence that these movies are expanding into wide release,” Dergarabedian said. “These awards raise the profile and help sales for Hollywood. It’s calculated timing.”

“The Legend of Hercules,” the only new wide release this past weekend, stars Kellan Lutz in the title role as the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, the film follows Hercules as he fights his way back to his rightful kingdom.

‘American Hustle’

The movie received a 3 percent positive rating by RottenTomatoes.com. It was projected to collect $7 million for Lions Gate. In July, Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. are scheduled to release their own “Hercules” movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, according to IMDB.

Among other returning films, “Frozen,” the Walt Disney Co. animation about two estranged princesses in an icy world, collected $14.7 million to place second in its eighth weekend after returning to the top of the domestic box office last week. Its U.S. and Canadian sales since release total $317.3 million.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s film about a crooked stock broker, took in $8.84 million to place fourth for Paramount. Leonardo DiCaprio, who stars in the title role, won a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy.

“American Hustle,” a fictionalized account of a 1970s scandal, had sales of $8.3 million for Sony Corp. to rank fifth. The movie won three Golden Globes, including best comedy, the most of any film. Amy Adams was voted best actress in comedy, while Jennifer Lawrence won for best supporting actress.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second of three films from works by J.R.R. Tolkien, took in $8.02 million for Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros. and MGM Holdings Inc. to place sixth.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 0.2 percent to $112.4 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales so far this year total $415.6 million, up 2.2 percent from a year earlier.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Jan. 10 to Jan. 12

                   Rev.    Pct.             Avg./    Total
   Movie          (mln)   Chg. Theaters  Theater    (mln)   Wks
==============================================================
 1 Lone Survivor  $37.8   >100   2,875   $13,165    $38.2    3
 2 Frozen          14.7    -25   3,239    4,547     317.3    8
 3 Hercules         8.9     --   2,104    4,215       8.9    1
 4 Wolf Of Wall St  8.8    -33   2,521    3,506      78.4    3
 5 American Hustle  8.3    -33   2,629    3,158     101.3    5
 6 The Hobbit       8.0    -49   3,075    2,609     242.2    5
 7 Osage County     7.2   >100     905    7,910       7.7    3
 8 Mr. Banks        6.6    -25    2,671    2,455     68.9    5
 9 Paranormal       6.3    -66    2,883    2,180     28.5    2
10 Anchorman 2      5.8    -45    3,012    1,939    118.3    4

Top 10 Film Grosses:

     This Week     Year Ago        Pct.
         (mln)       (mln)         Chg.
=======================================
        $112.4       $112.2       +0.2


Year-to-date Revenue:

         2014          2013
         YTD           YTD        Pct.
        (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
=======================================
        $416          $407      +2.2

Source: Rentrak Corp.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Livesey in San Francisco at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Alex Nussbaum in New York at anussbaum1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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