‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Leads Box Office Sales After Oscar Nods

“Zero Dark Thirty,” the Oscar-nominated film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, was the top weekend film at U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking in $24.4 million for distributor Sony Corp.

“A Haunted House” placed second, collecting $18.1 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The crime drama “Gangster Squad” opened in third place with sales of $17.1 million for Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros.

“Zero Dark Thirty” and other Oscar contenders, including “Lincoln,” benefited from Academy Award nominations, which were announced on Jan. 10. They may get additional momentum this week from the Golden Globe awards, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which were handed out last night in Beverly Hills, California, in a telecast on NBC.

“Awards chatter before the wide release of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ helped it top the charts,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.

The weekend marked the first for wide release of “Zero Dark Thirty.” The film stars Jessica Chastain as a dogged CIA operative who uncovers key information that led U.S. Navy commandos to bin Laden’s hideout in 2011.

Chastain won a Golden Globe last night for her portrayal of the CIA agent named Maya. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture and best original screenplay. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences holds its Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24.

Solid Start

“For an R-rated film about war, with a difficult subject matter that includes torture, $24 million is a solid start,” Bock said. He predicted the film would make more than $100 million in the U.S. “and even better abroad where audiences will want to see how a U.S.-made film tells this story.”

The film has drawn criticism from senators including Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said the movie wrongly suggests harsh interrogation methods yielded key information in the search for bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have denied the assertion. The movie opened in limited release on Dec. 19.

The biggest surprise of the weekend, Bock said, was “A Haunted House,” which beat “Gangster Squad,” and “shows the appeal of a spoof dealing with horror movies and paranormal activity.”

“A Haunted House,” from Open Road Films, stars Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins as a couple who discover they are sharing their new house with demons. Priests, a psychic and a team of ghostbusters all are summoned to make the home safe.

‘Django Unchained’

“Gangster Squad” stars Josh Brolin as the leader of a special team of Los Angeles Police Department detectives assigned to take on mobster Mickey Cohen. The movie, set in 1949, features Sean Penn as Cohen and Ryan Gosling as one of the detectives.

Placing fourth with $11 million in sales, “Django Unchained,” a Weinstein Co. film directed by Quentin Tarantino and featuring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio, tells the story of a white bounty hunter who helps a freed slave search for his wife in the pre-Civil War south.

The film picked up Golden Globes last night for best screenplay and best supporting actor for Waltz.

“Les Miserables,” the adaptation of the Broadway musical taken from the Victor Hugo classic, with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe, was fifth with a gross of $9.6 million. The film won Golden Globes for best musical or comedy, best actor for Jackman and best supporting for Hathaway.

“Lincoln,” which earned a leading 12 Academy Award nominations, rose to seventh with $6.3 million in sales, after finishing eighth the weekend earlier. It’s distributed by Walt Disney Co. and Twentieth Century Fox, and directed by Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the 16th U.S. president.

“It’s been playing for some time, and for a historical drama to have already topped $152 million at the box office is pretty phenomenal,” Bock said.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 5.4 percent to $121.4 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Sales for the first two weeks of the year are $441 million, up 22 percent from a year ago. Attendance is also up 22 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Jan. 11 to Jan. 13.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 ZERO DARK THIRTY   $24.4    2,937   $8,321  806    $29.9    4
 2 A HAUNTED HOUSE     18.1    2,160    8,380   --     18.1    1
 3 GANGSTER SQUAD      17.1    3,103    5,501   --     17.1    1
 4 DJANGO UNCHAINED    11.0    3,012    3,665  -45    125.4    3
 5 LES MISERABLES       9.6    2,927    3,295  -40    118.7    3
 6 THE HOBBIT           9.2    3,012    3,044  -48    278.2    5
 7 LINCOLN              6.3    2,027    3,125   17    152.6   10
 8 PARENTAL GUIDANCE    6.1    2,957    2,059  -37     60.6    3
 9 TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D   5.3    2,659    1,985  -76     30.9    2
10 SILVER LININGS       5.0      810    6,196   39     41.3    9
11 JACK REACHER         4.8    2,707    1,781  -48     72.6    4
12 THIS IS 40           4.4    2,320    1,885  -48     61.4    4

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $121.4 $115.1 +5.4

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $441 $362 +22 Year-to-date Attendance: +22%