Universal’s ‘Ride Along’ Tops Super Bowl Weekend Box Office

“Ride Along,” the buddy comedy with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, led the U.S. and Canadian box office for a third weekend, collecting $12 million in sales for Universal Pictures on the usually slow Super Bowl weekend.

“That Awkward Moment,” a romantic comedy from Universal’s Focus Features, took in $8.7 million to place third in its debut, Rentrak Corp. (RENT) said today in an e-mailed statement. The animated “Frozen” generated $8.9 million as Walt Disney Co. added a sing-along version in three-fourths of the theaters.

Studios relied on counter-programming on a weekend when many Americans are focused on the National Football League’s annual championship game. “Ride Along” withstood the challenge from “Awkward Moment,” meant to appeal to couples before the game, and Disney’s extra marketing push to bring families back to theaters for “Frozen,” in its 11th week.

“It’s an incredibly strong movie that appeals to its audience,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst for BoxOffice.com, in a telephone interview. “This movie should move Kevin Hart up the ‘A’ list pretty fast.”

In “Ride Along,” Hart’s character is a security guard who agrees to join his girlfriend’s brother, an Atlanta cop played by Ice Cube, on a 24-hour patrol to prove he’s worthy of marrying his sister and joining the force.

Date Night

The film, made for $25 million according to researcher Box Office Mojo, has generated $92.7 million domestically after three weeks. With military drama “Lone Survivor,” starring Mark Wahlberg, and now “Awkward Moment,” it has helped lift Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal to No. 1 in domestic sales in 2014.

Universal generated domestic sales of $198.3 million as of Jan. 30, a 26 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Box Office Mojo.

“That Awkward Moment” stars Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan as three friends in Manhattan. When the wife of one leaves him, the three pledge to remain single.

The movie was projected to take in $15 million for Focus Features, according to BoxOffice.com. It was made for $8 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

“Super Bowl weekend has shown it’s a very good weekend to program a date-night movie,” Contrino said. “These films appeal to couples on Friday and Saturday and then people stay home to watch the game.”

‘Labor Day’

The week of last year’s Super Bowl, “Warm Bodies” -- a romantic comedy pairing a zombie and a human -- took first place with $20.4 million in its debut. In 2010, “Dear John,” starring Channing Tatum, collected $30.5 million to displace “Avatar” in the top spot.

“Labor Day,” starring Kate Winslet, the other movie opening in wide release, collected $5.2 million to place seventh, according to Rentrak. The film, about a single mom who helps an escaped convict, was projected to collect $4.5 million for Paramount Pictures. It was made for $18 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

In the film, a prisoner on the run played by Josh Brolin persuades Winslet’s character to take him to the home she shares with her 13-year-old son, Henry. After holding her captive, the two develop a relationship. The film got a 30 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

‘Nut Job’

Since its debut in November, “Frozen” has taken in $359.6 million, second only to Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 2” for an animated movie released in 2013, according to Box Office Mojo. The film benefited from favorable reviews and a release schedule in the holidays that was light on family-friendly competition.

“Frozen” won the Golden Globe for best animated feature and is nominated for the Academy Award in the same category, as well as best original song for “Let It Go.”

For the sing-along version, Burbank, California-based Disney added on-screen lyrics and a bouncing snowflake, to encourage audience participation.

“Creating a sing-along version of ‘Frozen’ is a genius move by Disney,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “It’s a movie that won’t go away. It’s a juggernaut.”

“The Nut Job,” an animated picture about a cantankerous squirrel banished from his park and forced to survive in the city, placed fourth with $7.3 million for Open Road Films, according to Rentrak. “Lone Survivor” generated $7.1 million for Universal to place fifth.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 1.4 percent to $65.9 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $950 million, up 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak Corp. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.

                      Rev.  Pct.             Avg./   Total
Movie                (mln)  Chg. Theaters   Theater  (mln)   Wks
================================================================
 1 Ride Along        $12.0  -43    2,866    $4,199    $92.7    3
 2 Frozen              8.9   -2    2,754     3,244    359.6   11
 3 Awkward Moment      8.7   --    2,809     3,112      8.7    1
 4 Nut Job, The        7.3  -40    3,472     2,096     49.9    3
 5 Lone Survivor       7.1  -45    3,285     2,160    104.8    6
 6 Jack Ryan           5.3  -42    2,907     1,827     38.9    3
 7 Labor Day           5.2   --    2,584     2,003      5.2    1
 8 American Hustle     4.2  -41    2,216     1,877    133.5    8
 9 I, Frankenstein     3.8  -56    2,753     1,364     14.7    2
10 Wolf of Wall Street 3.4  -38    1,607     2,116    103.9    6

Top 10 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $65.9         $65.0      +1.4

Year-to-date Revenue

     2014          2013
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
      $950          $902      +5.3

Source: Rentrak Corp.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Livesey in London at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Dan Hart in Washington at dahart@bloomberg.net

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

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