Box Office: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ dominates post-Oscar nominations with $24 million

After a tough week, Sony Pictures and the “Zero Dark Thirty” team finally have something to celebrate.  The Oscar-nominated film dominated the box office over the weekend grossing $24 million in a nationwide expansion for $29.4 million so far. “Thirty” originally opened in limited release on Dec. 19, but finally expanded Friday after receiving five Academy Awards nominations on Thursday.  Of course, controversy followed with “Thirty’s” helmer Kathryn Bigelow being snubbed in the best directing category, but the former best director winner for “The Hurt Locker” now has a no. 1 movie to add to her increasingly impressive resume.  

Surprising in second place was Open Road Films’ “A Haunted House” with $18.8 million. Panned by critics, “House” was originally expected to end up somewhere in the $12-13 million range. Instead, moviegoers told Hollywood they were looking for more comedy and Open Road may have a new franchise on their hands.

“Gangster Squad” had the least satisfying debut of just $16.7 million for third place. The Warner Bros. thriller features Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone, but the star power didn’t help the flick get past the $20 million mark as pre-polling indicated it would. “Squad” was originally scheduled to open in early September until the studio realized an entire sequence needed to be reshoot due to sensitivity over the Aurora shooting.  Considering last year Universal Pictures had success with a similar date for Mark Wahlberg’s “Contraband,” many thought the delay might help “Squad’s” prospects. That didn’t come to pass.

Dropping to fourth with another strong weekend is Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” Another best picture nominee, “Django” found $11 million for an impressive $125.3 million to date. “Django” is now Tarantino’s highest grossing U.S. release to date surpassing “Inglourious Basterds'” $120 million.  At this point, Oscar season should give “Django” enough attention to end up in the $165-175 million range when all is said and done.

The third best picture nominee in the top five, “Les Miserables,” was next with another $10.1 million and $119.2 million to date. The Universal Pictures release becomes the fifth highest grossing musical of all time after “Grease,” “Chicago,” studio stablemate “Mamma Mia!” and “Enchanted.” Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the classic stage musical is slowly debuting overseas and broke records in the UK this weekend. It’s already grossed a staggering $28 million in South Korea alone.  

As for other best picture nominees, “Lincoln” found another $6.3 million for $152.5 million so far, “Silver Linings Playbook” grossed $5 million for $41.3 million to date, “Life of Pi” took in another $2.6 million for $94.7 million domestic and “Argo,” which was released in October, got a boost with another $1.2 million and $111.6 million overall

Friday’s new releases include “Broken City,” “The Last Stand,” “Mama” and a broader expansion for “Silver Linings.”

Final box office results will be revealed on Monday.