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Hunt for bid Laden popular at theaters

Sunday, January 13, 2013
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— “Zero Dark Thirty” hunted down the top spot at the box office — and easily won it.

Sony Pictures’ Osama bin Laden raid drama nabbed first place with $24 million in its first weekend in wide release, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The film, which opened in a limited run last month, earned five Oscar nominations last week, including best picture, original screenplay and actress for Jessica Chastain as a dogged CIA operative.

Open Road Films’ horror parody “A Haunted House” starring Marlon Wayans debuted in second place with a solid $18.8 million. The Warner Bros. mobster drama “Gangster Squad,” starring Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling as off-the-books police officers battling a mob boss played by Sean Penn, opened below expectations in third place with $16.7 million.

After earning Oscar nominations last week, several Academy Awards contenders benefited at the box office.

“The timing is great because there are a host of these awards contenders still out there,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst at Hollywood.com. “‘Django Unchained,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘Lincoln,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and a few others are still out there.”

Controversies surrounding “Zero Dark Thirty,” which depicts waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, may have helped create buzz for the film. Several lawmakers accused the CIA of misleading “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers by allegedly telling them such interrogation methods helped track down terrorist mastermind bin Laden in 2011.

The weekend’s third place finisher, “Gangster Squad,” similarly attracted controversy last year after the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater left 12 dead. Warner Bros. pulled the movie’s trailer and delayed the release out of sensitivity because the film originally featured a scene with mobsters ruthlessly shooting into a movie theater audience.

The entire sequence featuring Brolin’s character being ambushed inside famed Hollywood movie palace Grauman’s Chinese Theater was removed from “Gangster Squad” and replaced with a new scene, which cost millions of dollars to reshoot, set in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood. The rest of the film’s many bullet-ridden Tommy gun battles remained intact.

Overall business this weekend came in at $142 million, up more than 7 percent from the same period last year, when the Mark Wahlberg thriller “Contraband” led the box office with $24.3 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. It marks the third strong weekend for Hollywood after seven consecutive weekends when business was down over last year.

Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com.

The Top 10

1. “Zero Dark Thirty,” $24 million

2. “A Haunted House,” $18.8 million

3. “Gangster Squad,” $16.7 million

4. “Django Unchained,” $11 million

5. “Les Miserables,” $10.1 million

6. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” $9 million

7. “Lincoln,” $6.3 million

8. “Parental Guidance,” $6.1 million

9. “Texas Chainsaw 3-D,” $5.1 million

10. “Silver Linings Playbook,” $5 million

 
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