zero dark thirty jessica chastain christopher stanley sony Box Office: 'Zero Dark Thirty' rules despite controversy; 'Gangster Squad' disappointsIt’s official: “Zero Dark Thirty” is a hit. With a bigger than expected $9 million take in its first day of wide release, the controversial Oscar-nominated Kathryn Bigelow film made good on its sterling limited release performance and is expected to bring in somewhere around $25 million for the weekend.

That’s especially impressive considering the total domestic gross for Bigelow’s previous film, Oscar Best Picture winning “The Hurt Locker,” was a modest $17 million. While both films earned rave reviews from critics, “Zero Dark Thirty” has been positioned more as an event movie — promising an inside look at the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, featuring a riveting performance from rising star Jessica Chastain, and following on the heels of other intelligent movies for adults that have also become box office hits including “Argo,” “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained.” Audiences polled by CinemaScore graded “Zero Dark Thirty” a solid A-.

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The strong performance of “Zero Dark Thirty” overshadows the disappointing debut of cartoony period action movie “Gangster Squad.” Originally due for release in 2012 but delayed in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shootings, the film starring Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Emma Stone, earned a so-so $6.67 million on Friday.

That was actually below the debut of cheapie horror spoof “A Haunted House,” which bowed with $6.7 million. While “Gangster” should be able to take second place for the weekend, it’s likely to be quickly forgotten.

“Zero Dark Thirty” wasn’t the only Oscar nominee doing impressive business on Friday. Both “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” proved they still have box office life left, and rose from last Friday’s grosses. “Silver Linings” is still adding theaters and is expected to have a larger nationwide expansion next weekend.

Even after director Ben Affleck was snubbed in this year’s Oscar race, Best Picture nominated “Argo” doubled its theater count but while grosses rose modestly from last week the pic — which opened back in October — appears to be pretty much played out.

Friday (Jan. 11, 2013) box office:
1. “Zero Dark Thirty” $9 million
2. “A Haunted House” $6.7 million
3. “Gangster Squad” $6.67 million
4. “Django Unchained” $3.5 million
5. “Les Miserables” $2.8 million

Posted by:gberkshire