Political thriller Zero Dark Thirty faces a crucial test as it expands nationwide Friday, one day after landing an Oscar nomination for best picture.
Receiving the top Academy Award nod can greatly improve a film's fortune if the timing is right, and that's why Sony waited until now to unleash the movie across the country. To boot, the Golden Globe ceremony is Sunday night (Zero Dark Thirty is up for best motion picture in the drama category).
From filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty has prospered in select cities since its Dec. 19 debut, even as it draws the ire of influential Capitol Hill lawmakers for suggesting that torture played a key role in tracking down Osama bin Laden. To date, it has earned $5.2 million.
The film picked up a total of five Oscar nominations on Tuesday, although Bigelow was shut out of the director's race (she won three years ago for The Hurt Locker).
Zero Dark Thirty's biggest competition at the box office will be Warner Bros.' star-studded period mobster pic Gangster Squad, which opens Friday. Box office observers expect both movies to gross in the $20 million range, give or take.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Gangster Squad revolves around a special task force formed by the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1940s to fight mobsters. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Michael Pena and Emma Stone star.
The film's release was postponed from September 2012 until now in the wake of the Colorado theater shooting during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises because of a theater shooting in the film; that scene has been deleted.
Also opening Friday is A Haunted House. The horror-spoof, a parody of the Paranormal Activity franchise, stars Marlon Wayans. Open Road Films is distributing the movie, which should open in the $15 million range.
Among other Oscar-nominated films, Amour also stands to gain from landing in the best picture category. The Sony Pictures Classics release, earning $340,798 to date, will expand beyond New York and Los Angeles this weekend into a handful of cities, including Chicago and San Francisco.
Harvey Weinstein made a calculated decision at the eleventh hour to postpone Silver Linings' nationwide debut from November to January in order to ride the awards wave. Playing now in roughly 750 theaters, the film has grossed $35.7 million to date. On Jan. 18, Silver Linings will make its biggest move yet as it ups its location count to about 2,500 locations.
Outside of Zero Dark Thirty, Amour and Silver Linings Playbook, most of the best picture contenders are well into their box office runs.
In terms of sheer grosses, best-picture contender Life of Pi leads the way with a worldwide total of more than $415 million, including $324 million internationally.
Lincoln -- earning 12 nominations, the most of any film -- has earned $145.5 million to date domestically, the most of any contender. The historical drama doesn't begin rolling out overseas until later this month.
Les Miserables has grossed $188.7 million worldwide, followed by Argo with $166.3 million. Opening in October, Argo will up its theater count from 300 to roughly 600 this weekend.
Django Unchained, which, like Lincoln, has yet to roll out overseas, has grossed $112.5 million in North America.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is the only title among the best picture candidates that is out on DVD, although Fox Searchlight may bring the film back into theaters.
- Arts & Entertainment