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November 22, 2014
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Lone Survivor outmuscles Hercules to lead US box office

Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from Lone Survivor.

Lone Survivor, the true story of a failed US Navy SEALS mission to capture or kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, collected US$38.5 million in US and Canadian ticket sales, topping movie Frozen to win the weekend box office race.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell, the only one of four SEALS to return from the mission and who wrote the 2007 book on which the movie is based.

Frozen, a Walt Disney Co animated film and last week's box office winner, was second with ticket sales of US$15.1 million from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from Rentrak.

The Wolf of Wall Street, a tale of greed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was third with US$9 million, while this week’s other new major release, The Legend of Hercules, starring fashion model and actor Kellan Lutz, was just behind, selling US$8.6 million in tickets.

Hercules was tied for fourth place with American Hustle, an awards-season favourite directed by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

Lone Survivor, directed and written by Friday Nights Lights director Peter Berg, was the subject of a Hollywood bidding war in 2007 won by Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures. The movie cost US$40 million to make, Universal said.

The heavily marketed film far exceeded industry projections of about US$23 million in domestic sales, including theatres in the United States and Canada.

It was the second biggest January opening weekend ever, behind only Cloverfield, which made US$40 million, according to Rentrak.

“You can’t make predictions on films like this,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president for domestic distribution, adding: “You just don’t know how the public is going to embrace it.”

But decent reviews along with what Rocco called “a grassroots campaign to tell Americans that this is a story of patriotism and heroism, and you’re going to want to be a part of the water cooler conversation about it on Monday,” sent its box office sales soaring.

The film received a 73 rating from aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the film an A+ grade, according to CinemaScore, which measures ticket buyer reactions.

The Legend of Hercules, which was forecast to have ticket sales of US$8 million, is the first of two films based on the son of the Greek god Zeus. The second Hercules stars professional wrestler Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” and is scheduled for release on July 25.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was sixth with US$8 million in ticket sales.

After leading the domestic box office during the last three weeks of 2013, the movie, the second of a three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, has hauled in US$242 million domestically and US$809 million globally.

Reuters

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