Box Office: Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ triumphs to win Christmas with $15.5 million

There was a new no. 1 movie at the box office on Christmas Day which was somewhat of a surprise. Of course, with four new wide releases coming into the theaters that was always possible.  The real shocker was that it was Angelina Jolie's second directorial effort, “Unbroken.”

Based on the epic true story of Louis Zamperini, the Universal Pictures drama pulled in $15.5 million on Christmas. Considering the film was, at best, looking at $30 million for the four-day frame that's a tremendous start.  “Unbroken” features no recognizable actors and had largely mixed to negative reviews.  It earned just a 59 on Metacritic and a “rotten” 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn't seem to care as they gave it an A- Cinemascore.  It also appears faith based audiences took to the picture.  After his experiences in WWII, Zamperini became an inspirational speaker after attending a Billy Graham crusade. This part of his life isn't discussed in “Unbroken,” but there are numerous references to God granting him strength on his journey which may helped Universal's faith-based marketing efforts. If the film continues to perform close to this level through the holidays it could make back its reported $65 million budget by New Year's Day. That sort of success could make a shaky Oscar nomination for best picture a much more realistic endeavor.

Also debuting strong in the second slot was Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Broadway classic “Into the Woods.” The Golden Globe nominee for Best Film – Musical or Comedy was just behind “Unbroken” with $15 million and “looks” to be another hit for Walt Disney Studios. However, many movie musicals have front loaded first day runs so the returns on Friday and Saturday will really tell just how broad the $50 million budgeted flick will play.  It is worth noting, however, that “Woods” had a much better per screen than “Unbroken” ($6,182 vs. $4,980), but came in no. 2 because its in 690 less theaters.

Dropping to no. 3 was “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” with another $13.1 million and $127.1 million in just 9 days.  The third installment in the “Hobbit” trilogy is currently ahead of where “The Desolation of Smaug” and behind where “An Unexpected Journey” were at this point in their respective runs.

“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” took fourth with $7.3 million and $34.7 million over its first seven days. As noted previously, this “Night of the Museum” sequel is performing significantly worse than its predecessors.

The Mark Wahlberg drama “The Gambler” took fifth with just $x million.  Unlike “Unbroken,” the Rupert Wyatt directed flick not only received mixed to negative reviews (55 grade on Metacritic, 47% on Rotten Tomatoes), but an eyebrow raising Cinemascore of C+. That's usually is a predictor of bad word of mouth.

The controversial Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy “The Interview” opened in 331 pulling in an OK $1.04 million or $3,142 per screen. Considering the film was also released on a number of online platforms simultaneously that's probably the high end of how it would do.  Whether Sony ever makes back its reported $44 million production budget, however, remains to be seen.

Increasing its theater count to 747, The Weinstein Company's Oscar hopeful “The Imitation Game” earned a fine $3 million for $6.7 million to date.  On the other hand, the studio's other awards hopeful, “Big Eyes,” found just an OK $1.4 million or $1,083 per on 1,307 screens.

In limited release, two other awards hopefuls impressed.  Ava DuVernay's “Selma” took in $322,000 or $16,947 per on just 19 screens.  Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper” earned a stellar $200,000 or $60,000 per on just 4.  Both will expand nationwide in January.

Look for continuing box office updates throughout the holidays on HitFix.