“Lone Survivor,” a military drama based on a 2005 Navy SEAL operation in Afghanistan, topped U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, collecting $38.5 million for Comcast’s Universal Pictures.
The movie, starring Mark Wahlberg, expanded in wide release after a limited debut on Dec. 25. “The Legend of Hercules,” the only mainstream debut, took in $8.6 million for Lions Gate Entertainment to tie for fourth place with “American Hustle,” Rentrak said in an emailed statement Sunday.
“Lone Survivor” is Universal’s second No. 1 debut with Wahlberg in less than a year after “2 Guns,” the buddy cop comedy-thriller, placed first in domestic theaters in August. It marks a good start to the year for Universal, which ranked third in gross domestic sales in 2013, helped by receipts from the latest installments of its “Fast &Furious” and “Despicable Me” franchises.
“It’s a great ensemble cast and Wahlberg is a big part of that,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. “He has proven across any genre that he is a consistent box office draw.”
“Lone Survivor” is based on the memoir of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell about a failed U.S. mission to track down an al-Qaida leader. After a conflict with the Taliban, Luttrell was the only member of the team who returned. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana co-star in the film.
The movie, which got a 73 percent positive rating by RottenTomatoes.com, the review aggregator site, was projected to collect $26 million, according to BoxOffice.com.
“Lone Survivor” follows recent mixed success for Hollywood with combat movies. While 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was a success for Sony, “White House Down,” about a terrorist attack on the president, also from Sony, flopped in the summer.
The movie is competing in a crowded weekend as studios expanded award-nominated films, such as “Her” with Joaquin Phoenix, into wide release ahead of the annual Golden Globe ceremony Sunday evening and the Oscar nominations to be announced next week.
“Her” took in $5.41 million for Warner Bros. It features Phoenix as a writer, Theodore, who develops an emotional relationship with the sultry, disembodied voice of a computer operating system, played by Scarlett Johansson.
The movie garnered a 93 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes and was projected to collect $8.5 million.
Both the film and Phoenix have been nominated for a Golden Globe award. Other nominated films expanding this weekend are Weinstein Co.’s “August: Osage County,” starring Meryl Streep and Ethan and Joel Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” from CBS Films.
“It’s no coincidence that these movies are expanding into wide release on the eve of the Golden Globes and next week’s Oscar nominations,” Dergarabedian said. “These awards raise the profile and help sales for Hollywood. It’s calculated timing.”
“The Legend of Hercules,” the only new wide release this weekend, stars Kellan Lutz in the title role as the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, the film follows Hercules as he fights his way back to his rightful kingdom.
The movie received a 3 percent positive rating by RottenTomatoes.com. It was projected to collect $7 million for Lions Gate. In July, Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer are scheduled to release their own “Hercules” movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, according to IMDB.