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Box Office Preview: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Achieves Mission; ‘Haunted House’ Edges ‘Gangster Squad’ for Second Place

Box Office Preview: 'Zero Dark Thirty' Achieves Mission; 'Haunted House' Edges 'Gangster Squad' for Second Place

Zero Dark Thirty” stood out among eight Oscar Best Pictures nominees in release the weekend after the nominations with a strong $9 million and a likely dominant #1 position expected for the weekend. But the shocker so far is Open Road’s unheralded “The Haunted House,” which for its opening day seems to have slightly edged Warner Bros.’ delayed release of “Gangster Squad” for #2 so far. The latter was thought to possible be a rival to “Zero Dark” for the top spot. Instead, even though it is showing at 1,000 more theaters than “Haunted,” it looks to be in a battle for second place, a very disappointing result for this bigger-name driven, much more expensive film.

The impact of all these Oscar films helped grosses for the top ten to climb $6 million from $30 million for last year’s second Friday in January. The difference though is that the nominations came two weeks earlier this year, when more of the late year films are still in elevated current release and in position to benefit.

The nominations actually didn’t provide a boost for all of the other nominees. Previously very strong “Django Unchained” and “Les Miserables” both fell around 45% from last Friday to #4 and #5 respectively, which is around what or even more than their drop would have been expected to be with no Oscar attention. Down the line, top-nodded “Lincoln” rose to #7 (one notch) with about a 15% jump from last Friday, and should hit $150 million today.

“Silver Linings Playbook” – which finally goes wide next week, after already having played most of the country since Thanksgiving, could end up #10 with a strong Saturday, and with a small increase in theaters jumped around 45% from last week, suggesting it has potential to far exceed the $38 million in the till so far. “Life of Pi,” hurt by a normal drop in theaters, still added $670,000 for the day, with the real chance that it will pass $100 million. “Argo,” which is in its fourth month, managed to add $335,000 to its already strong $110 million so far.

Of the nine Best Picture nominees, only the long-ago finished “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the subtitled “Amour” (which widened somewhat yesterday, grosses to be reported tomorrow) are certain not to reach the $100 million mark. That would mean, with the likelihood that “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Life of Pi” will join the others, that seven on the nine nominees will be widely-seen popular successes, at the high end among nominees since the list expanded above five. That could make this year’s Oscar telecast as well-viewed as the years blockbusters “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings” were in contention.

Top 10 Friday grosses (in millions + total)

1. “Zero Dark Thirty” (Sony) – $9.0/$14.5

2. “A Haunted House” (Open Road) – $6.7/$6.7

3. “Gangster Squad” (Warner Bros.) – $6.7/$6.7

4. “Django Unchained” (Weinstein) – $3.5/ $117.8

5. “Les Miserables” (Universal) – $2.8/$111.9

6. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Warner Bros.) – $2.3/$271.4

7. “Lincoln” (Buena Vista) – $1.8/$148.1

8. “Texas Chainsaw” (Lionsgate) – $1.8/$27.4

9. “Parental Guidance” (20th Century-Fox) – $1.7/$56.3

10. “Jack Reacher” (Paramount) – $1.6/$69.4

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