From left, Taylor Kitsch, as Michael Murphy, Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell, Ben Foster as Matt 'Axe' Axelson, and Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz in a scene from the film, 'Lone Survivor.' (AP)
Los Angeles — “Lone Survivor” triumphed at the weekend box office.
The patriotic Navy SEAL drama starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster smashed expectations to earn $38.5 million in its first weekend in wide release, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Universal film directed by “Friday Night Lights” and “Battleship” filmmaker Peter Berg is based on Marcus Luttrell’s memoir about a dangerous mission his Navy SEAL team embarked on in Afghanistan in 2005.
“We’re thrilled for us, the filmmakers and Marcus, who — as brave as a man as he is — continues to be brave in telling this true story,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “It’s an amazing result. What’s most gratifying about this is that it’s been endorsed by every quadrant of the moviegoing audience: young, old, male, female.”
Rocco said “Lone Survivor” performed particularly well in middle America. The movie’s launch marks the second biggest opening for a film in January, after the $40.1 million debut of “Cloverfield” in 2008.
“We had an inkling it’d do well when it opened in limited release in December, but projections had it coming in between $17 million to $28 million,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. “Nothing had it coming close to $40 million.”
In its eighth weekend, Disney’s icy animated tale “Frozen” stayed cool in the No. 2 spot, earning $15 million and bringing its domestic total to $317 million, passing Disney Animation’s $312 million record set by “The Lion King” in 1994.
Paramount’s controversial “The Wolf of Wall Street” scored No. 3 in its third weekend, earning $9 million and boosting its total domestic haul to $78.6 million. The hedonistic tycoon drama directed by Martin Scorsese stars Leonardo DiCaprio as reckless stock broker Jordan Belfort.
Lionsgate’s “The Legend of Hercules,” the weekend’s only other major release, tied Sony’s “American Hustle” for the No. 4 position, with both films earning $8.6 million, according to studio estimates.
“American Hustle,” whose domestic total now stands at $101.5 million, leads the nominees alongside “12 Years a Slave” at Sunday’s Golden Globes with seven nods each.
Several other awards contenders expanded into wide release this weekend ahead of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s glitzy ceremony, including the Weinstein Co.’s “August: Osage County” at No. 6 with $7.3 million, Warner Bros.’s “Her” at No. 10 with $5.4 million and CBS Films’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” at No. 14 with $1.9 million.