‘Mama’ Opens as Box Office Leader Over ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

The horror tale “Mama” opened as the top weekend film in U.S. and Canadian theaters, displacing Oscar contender “Zero Dark Thirty” as the two films starring Jessica Chastain vied for the top spot.

“Mama,” with $28.1 million in sales for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, edged Kathryn Bigelow’s look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which fell to second with $17.6 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback film “The Last Stand” opened in 10th place with $6 million,

The weekend sales reflected the growing box-office appeal of Chastain. She received a best-actress Oscar nomination this month for her portrayal in “Zero Dark Thirty” of a relentless CIA officer who uncovers key information that leads to the killing of bin Laden.

“It is very rare indeed for a star to boast appearing in the top two movies,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com’s box-office unit, in an e-mailed comment. “Chastain’s profile, after so many great performances in numerous movies over the past couple of years, is now hitting a very high point.”

In “Mama,” two young girls disappear in the woods on the day their mother is murdered. Five years later, they are discovered living in a feral state in a remote cabin.

Oscar Buzz

Their uncle and his girlfriend, played by Chastain, take them in. Soon after the girls arrive, the couple discovers that a malevolent force has followed the girls into the home. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau co-stars as the uncle.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” also nominated for best picture, is benefiting from Oscar buzz and the political debate over the film’s depiction of harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA.

Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the movie falsely suggests techniques such as waterboarding provided key information. The California Democrat has called for an investigation into whether the CIA has been honest about the value of such methods.

“Zero Dark Thirty” follows a team of operatives who use a variety of methods, including interrogation, satellite photos and on-the-ground surveillance, to locate bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The movie also depicts bin Laden’s 2011 death during a raid by U.S. Navy Seals.

In addition to Chastain, the film features Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler and James Gandolfini.

Perfect Timing

Weinstein Co.’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which expanded to 2,523 theaters from 810 last week, rose to third from 10th with sales of $11.4 million. The movie starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro tells of an adult son who returns to his parents’ home after months in a psychiatric hospital.

“Silver Linings” benefited from the additional theaters and was able “to capitalize on multiple Oscar nominations,” Dergarabedian said. “The timing could not have been more perfect.”

“Gangster Squad,” starring Josh Brolin as the leader of a special team of Los Angeles Police Department detectives assigned to take on mobster Mickey Cohen, finished fourth, taking in $9.1 million. The movie, set in 1949, features Sean Penn as Cohen and Ryan Gosling as one of the detectives.

The crime drama “Broken City,” new this past weekend, was fifth with $9 million in receipts. The film, from News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, stars Mark Wahlberg as a former police officer who seeks to clear his name after being framed by the mayor, played by Russell Crowe.

Schwarzenegger’s Return

In “The Last Stand,” Schwarzenegger plays a former Los Angeles Police Department detective who moves into semi-retirement by becoming the sheriff of a small town on the Mexican border. His life is disrupted when a drug kingpin escapes from FBI custody.

The film, distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., also features Forest Whitaker and Luis Guzman.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 6 percent to $121.9 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Sales for the first three weeks of the year are $631.3 million, up 14 percent from a year ago. Attendance is also up 14 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
1 MAMA                 $28.1   2,647  $10,625   --    $28.1  1
2 ZERO DARK THIRTY      17.6   2,946    5,974   -28    55.9  5
3 SILVER LININGS        11.4   2,523    4,499   126    55.3 10
4 GANGSTER SQUAD         9.1   3,103    2,936   -47    32.2  2
5 BROKEN CITY            9.0   2,620    3,435   --      9.0  1
6 A HAUNTED HOUSE        8.3   2,160    3,856   -54    30.0  2
7 DJANGO UNCHAINED       8.2   2,516    3,276   -25   138.4  4
8 LES MISERABLES         7.8   2,579    3,030   -19   130.4  4
9 THE HOBBIT             6.4   2,323    2,757   -30   287.4  6
10 THE LAST STAND        6.3   2,913    2,163   --      6.3  1
11 LINCOLN               5.4   2,174    2,482   -15   161.9 11
12 PARENTAL GUIDANCE     4.3   2,337    1,819   -30    66.3  4

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $121.9        $115.1        +6

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
     $631.3       $552.6        +14

Year-to-date Attendance:        +14%
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