‘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 in the holiday weekend.

“Mama,” with $32.1 million in sales for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, surpassed Kathryn Bigelow’s look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which fell to second with $18.6 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The results include sales for yesterday’s U.S. Martin Luther King holiday.

The 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 information that leads to the killing of bin Laden. Her character in “Mama” takes two young relatives into her home with frightening consequences.

“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. Nikolaj 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 $12.7 million over four days. 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 $10.1 million. The movie, set in 1949, features Sean Penn as Cohen and Ryan Gosling as one of the detectives.

“A Haunted House” dropped to fifth from second, with $9.5 million in sales. The movie, a spoof of the horror genre 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.

Wahlberg, Schwarzenegger

The crime drama “Broken City,” new this past weekend, was sixth with $9.5 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.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback film “The Last Stand” opened in 10th place with $7.2 million for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

The one-time bodybuilder and California governor plays a former Los Angeles Police Department detective who moves into semi-retirement by becoming sheriff of a small town on the Mexican border. His life is disrupted when a drug kingpin escapes from FBI custody. The film also features Forest Whitaker and Luis Guzman.

Revenue for the top 12 films fell 2.3 percent to $137.9 million from the year-earlier four-day holiday, Hollywood.com said. Sales for the first three weeks of the year are up 7 percent to $658 million. Attendance is also up 7 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Jan. 18-21.

                     Rev.             Avg./    Pct.  Total
   Movie            (mln)  Theaters  Theater   Chg.  (mln)  Wks
 1 MAMA             $32.1    2,647  $12,145     --    $32.1    1
 2 ZERO DARK THIRTY  18.6    2,946    6,314    -35     56.9    5
 3 SILVER LININGS    12.7    2,523    5,050    114     56.7   10
 4 GANGSTER SQUAD    10.1    3,103    3,264    -49     33.2    2
 5 A HAUNTED HOUSE    9.5    2,160    4,385    -55     31.1    2
 6 BROKEN CITY        9.5    2,620    3,610     --      9.5    1
 7 DJANGO UNCHAINED   9.2    2,516    3,663    -30    139.3    4
 8 LES MISERABLES     9.0    2,579    3,495    -22    131.6    4
 9 THE HOBBIT         7.6    2,323    3,282    -33    288.6    6
10 THE LAST STAND     7.2    2,913    2,476     --      7.2    1
11 LINCOLN            6.7    2,174    3,072    -14    161.8   11
12 PARENTAL GUIDANCE  5.6    2,337    2,410    -30     67.7    4

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $137.9 $141.2 -2.3

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $658 $615 +7.0 Year-to-date Attendance: +7%
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